Eye test time

 

Here’s a guide to what to expect when you go for your first retinopathy screening test.

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If you have just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, your GP should organise a retinopathy screening test (RST) for you. This appointment should happen within 90 days and is an important part of your diabetes care.

Why should I get tested?

People with all kinds of diabetes are at risk of developing diabetic eye disease (also known as diabetic retinopathy). This is one of the most common causes of sight loss in adults, but with early diagnosis and treatment, damage can be reduced or avoided.

What is diabetic eye disease?

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when diabetes affects small blood vessels, damaging the part of the eye called the retina. Diabetes can cause the blood vessels in your retina to leak or become blocked and can affect your sight. Often, these changes are not sight- threatening, but they need to be checked regularly. Their presence means special attention should be given to your blood glucose control and treatment of other medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

You should have a retinopathy check at least every two to three years if your diabetes is very well controlled. This advice applies to people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Your optometrist or ophthalmologist will tell you if you need to have your eyes checked more often.

What will happen in the test?

The person checking your eyes may ask if they can put drops in your eyes to temporarily make your pupils larger.

You can choose whether you will have the drops put in or not as they may sting. Sometimes it is necessary in order to get an accurate picture.

Photographs will be taken of the back of your eyes. The camera does not touch your eyes.

A letter will be sent to you and your GP within three weeks to let you know your results and when to have another check.

This is not a full eye check for glasses or other eye problems. It is just a check for diabetic eye disease. You should continue to visit your optometrist regularly for a full eye examination.

What do I need to think about on the day?

Allow about 30 minutes for your eye check appointment.

Bring all the glasses and contact lenses you wear along with contact lens solution. You could also take along sunglasses because your eyes may feel sensitive after the eye drops.

Plan how you can get home safely after your appointment because your sight might be impaired by the eye drops for a short while after your appointment.

REDUCING THE RISK

• Control your blood glucose as effectively as possible

See your doctor regularly to check that your blood pressure is not raised

• Attend your diabetic eye screening appointments

• Get professional health advice if you have any problems with your sight

• Take your medication as prescribed.

The information in this article is taken from the Ministry of Health’s national guidelines for retinal screening for people with diabetes (2016).

*This article first appeared in the Autumn 2017 issue of Diabetes Wellness magazine. Join today to receive your free copy of our flagship magazine

 
 
Jo Chapman