I remember the first time I got a letter like this from my Diabetic Retina Screening stating that I had background retinopathy. It. Freaked. Me. Out. Big Time! The language of the letter did not help either. It was actually my very first screening with the new service in 2015.
It was such a shock as all previous eye exams done at the community health centre were reported clear. I suppose it’s the difference between having a digital image that the reader can magnify and only relying on a human eye.
I remember trying to decide if I should have faith in the service to refer me if I needed it. Or if I should get a second opinion. I chose the first option but my faith was shaky.
My subsequent letter after my screening in 2016 stated that there was no background retinopathy. So, I assume that retinopathy fluctuates just like blood sugars and this is why I’m not freaking out this time.
*** Although, again, the wording of the letter is not in any way helpful.
I think every single person with diabetes worries about the health of their eyes (among other worries) and so if I don’t get an appointment for my annual screening I seek one out.
I didn’t have to do that this year though, so that was nice. Although, I frequently have to rearrange it because it clashes with school collection times.
One the day of my appointment I bring a driver with me. The dilation drops usually take a couple of hours to wear off and it’s difficult to drive. Oh! I also try to remember to bring a pair of sunglasses. Even if it’s not sunny. This year, I was not successful in remembering and it was the first gloriously sunny day we’d had in weeks. So very bright.
I was in and out of my appointment in less than a half an hour and I had my results at the end of the week.
I really wish that their letter was worded a little more compassionately and appropriately. “It is important to control your blood glucose and blood pressure”. Duh, trying to do that every single day!!! Have you ever tried to “control” something as volatile as a toddler?
If you are new to diabetes or new to the Diabetic Retina Screen Service here are some pointers.
WHAT IS THE DIABETIC RETINA SCREEN SERVICE?
Diabetic RetinaScreen was launched in 2013. It’s an Irish government-funded screening programme to ensure all people with diabetes over the age of 12 years are offered a free annual diabetic retinopathy screening.
It is limited to children over 12 years because complications of diabetes are so rare in children.
The Diabetic RetinaScreen programme uses specialised digital photography to examine the eye.
If you have diabetes, it is important to have the back of your eyes effectively screened every year.
HOW DOES THE DIABETIC RETINA SCREEN SERVICE WORK?
When you are diagnosed with diabetes, any type, either your GP or you need to be registered with the service. You can self register here.
You can check if you are on the register by by ringing Freephone 1800 45 45 55 (choose option 1).
Once registered, you will be invited for a screening appointment via letter.
Always remember that if the appointment is a day or time that is difficult for you, a quick phone call can rearrange. I think there may even be Saturday appointments!
Something else that is important to know about the screening service is that it is ONLY checking for retinopathy and diabetes related eye complications. This screen does not determine if you need glasses or if you wear glasses if you need your prescription changed.