Diabetic eye screening and retinopathy

What is diabetic eye disease?

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of the eye that can affect anyone who has diabetes, whether they are treated with insulin, tablets or diet only.  Retinopathy generally has no obvious symptoms until it is well advanced.

Early detection is the key to successful treatment, which may be carried out by regular examination of the eye allowing the condition to be recognised, treatment to be planned and so reducing the risk of damaging vision. Treatment is more effective when given early, which is why regular screening usually once a year is essential to protect the eyesight.

It is best to aim to prevent diabetic eye disease by maintaining:

  • Good control of your blood glucose (HbA1c)
  • Good control of blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Attending regularly for eye screening

Your GPs and health professionals should complete a referral form when you are diagnosed as diabetic and send it our department at Unit 11, Trinity Mews, North Ormesby Health Village, North Ormesby.

About your screening visit

Everyone with diabetes who is 12 years of age or over should be invited to have their eyes screened once a year, regardless of whether they use insulin, tablets or diet to keep their diabetes under control. At the appointment your visual acuity will be checked.  Please bring all glasses and contact lenses you wear, along with lens solution for contacts. This does not replace your regular eye test with your own optician. We put drops in your eyes to temporarily make your pupils bigger to help us get a good view to the back of your eyes. Eye drops may affect your vision for up to four hours, you should not drive after your appointment.
Photographs are taken of the back of your eyes.  The camera will not touch your eyes or blow into them, but there will be a bright flash when each photograph is taken. We are unable to advise on your screening results at the time of your appointment. Specially trained staff will examine the photographs taken for diabetic eye disease at our grading centre. We send a report to you and your GP within six weeks to let you know your screening result and when we will next need to see you.

On very rare occasions some people experience discomfort or pain after having dilating drops in their eyes. If you are still having pain after six hours then you should contact your GP or go to your local Accident and Emergency Department.

  • The James Cook University Hospital – 01642 854096
  • Darlington Memorial Hospital – 01325 743472

Additional screening tests

Some photographs may show early changes, which do not require treatment, but need to be monitored more frequently.  You may be invited for an additional screening test listed below and it is important you make an appointment when you are invited to do so, so that we can assess any changes.

Digital surveillance appointment

Digital surveillance appointments are made to monitor any changes found during your annual photographic eye screen.  Photos are taken at set intervals at our eye screening locations and are checked by specialists.

Slit lamp assessment

Slit lamp appointments are made if photographs taken during your last eye screen did not give a clear enough view of the back of your eyes.  This examination is done by a specialist at our North Ormesby clinic or the Friarage Hospital.

Eye screening during pregnancy

You will be offered more frequent tests for diabetic retinopathy when you are pregnant.  Please contact us to advise us of your pregnancy within the first trimester.

Optical coherence tomography (OCT)

The OCT images allow for measurements of retinal thickness and show if the retina is waterlogged.  Appointments will be at North Ormesby or the Friarage Hospital clinic.

Referral treatment centres

Some photographs may show other changes which indicate the need for further assessment by an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) and some treatment may be required.  If this is the case we will make a referral on your behalf and you will receive a letter inviting you to the hospital to attend a specialist clinic.  The referral centres are listed below.

James Cook Hospital
Ophthalmology
Marton Road
Middlesbrough
Cleveland
TS4 3BW
Friarage Hospital
Ophthalmology
East Road
Northallerton
North Yorkshire
DL6 1JG