Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all routine retinal screening appointments for patients with diabetes have been postponed.

However, in most areas retinal screening services have resumed but are unable to see as many patients as they were before due to the need to infection control. The clinicians will be using personal protective equipment (PPE) and there will be specific instructions to follow for the service in your area. It may also be the case that the location of your service has temporarily changed due to the need for hospital space for other services currently. We recommend you check the instructions and location carefully before you set out.

In order to prevent sight loss, services in some areas are having to prioritise those people who are at most risk of retinopathy. This includes those that were previously allocated an earlier recall than the yearly standard appointment, people who are pregnant and new patients that haven’t had a screening test before.

These appointments are extremely important in preventing avoidable sight loss for people with diabetes. The photographs taken enable clinicians to pick up the very earliest signs of disease caused by diabetes in your eyes. Treatment offered, or lifestyle changes based on these findings, are very important in the fight against sight loss due to diabetes. If you are offered an appointment, it is advisable to attend. If you are worried about the risk of traveling to the appointment please contact the service in your area to discuss your worries. If you decide not to attend please let the service know so that the appointment is not wasted.

If you were previously screened and found to have no retinopathy, you will be waiting a longer than usual for your next appointment because you are at very low risk of sight-threatening retinopathy. However, it is also important to know that a delay of a few months at this time is safe and helps to protect those most at risk of sight loss and reduces your risk of contracting the virus. It is very unlikely that during that time you would develop diabetic retinopathy that cannot be treated.

Currently, RNIB recommends:

  • You look after your general health as best you can during this time and contact your GP if you feel that your diabetic control is not as good as it should be. 
  • You seek immediate help should you notice any sudden change in your vision. This includes double vision, blurring, floating bits or flashes in your vision. Don’t ignore sudden changes in your vision as there are still emergency eye care services available to those who need them.

Routine eye examinations are now available in most areas and therefore it would be a good idea to make sure your eye examinations are up to date. A routine eye examination includes a check on the retina and some optometrists also photograph or scan the retina too. This will provide an excellent check for reassurance while you are waiting for your screening appointment. You should have a routine eye examination if it has been over 12 months since your last one, or if you feel your vision has changed.

If you haven’t heard from your local diabetic retinal screening service and you are overdue for an appointment you can check with your GP or diabetic nurse what the procedure is for reinstating your appointment. This is particularly important if you think that you should be in the higher risk group.

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