Diabetic Retinopathy is a complication that can develop due to having diabetes, the retina is a light-sensitive layer of cells at the back of the eye that sends signals to your brain, your brain then turns these signals into images and this is how you see! The Retina is supplied blood via tiny blood vessels, Diabetic Retinopathy is damage to these blood vessels and if left undetected and untreated it can cause permanent blindness. Retinopathy Screening is something that is offered to everyone with diabetes over the age of 12. In it's early stages Diabetic Retinopathy has no symptoms so it's strongly recommended that you attend your annual eye screening appointments.
I had my annual appointment yesterday. It's a really straight forward, non-invasive test, I'm going to tell you what happens at my appointments so if you haven't had a screening before or you're about to go for your first screening then you will know a little bit about what to expect. When I go in to the Diabetes Center I put my appointment letter in a box and wait to be called in, I'm usually not waiting for very long because the appointments are quite fast. When I get called in, I take a seat and the healthcare professional who is doing the eye screening asks me to read out the letters from a board, just like at a regular opticians appointment.
The next step is the eye drops. When I was younger I managed to avoid getting the eye drops because my pupils were always dilated enough, apparently young people have naturally dilated pupils. Don't quote me on that though! Ha! The past couple of years however, I have had to get the eye drops. I'm not going to lie, they are not a pleasant experience. It's one drop in each eye, you will most likely get given a tissue to wipe your eyes afterwards, I always get given tissues! The drops sting your eyes, they don't sting for very long though, maybe about 30 seconds, no longer than a minute. Once the drops have been applied, I go and sit out in the waiting room for 15 minutes while the drops do their thing and dilate my pupils. It makes your eyes go blurry, you will find things like looking at your phone very difficult because your eyes won't be able to focus, the drops also make your eyes sensitive to light so it's always a good idea to bring sunglasses along to your appointment. These side effects aren't permanent though, don't fret! They last between two and six hours, then your eyes will be back to normal.
After 15 minutes I get called back in, then the photographs get taken! You have to rest your chin on a little chin rest and look into the lens of a special camera, then you will see a green light and you'll get told to look at the light. There will be two bright flashes in each eye, this is the camera taking photos of the back of your eye, the pupil dilation is so the camera flash can get to the back of your eye to reach the retina, nothing touches your eyes though, you just have to look at a green light.
Sometimes the healthcare professional who took the photos will look at them on the screen briefly before you leave, I always like to have a look at the photos, I'm clearly very fascinated by my retina! The official results come in within six weeks. Then, provided your eyes are all clear, that's it for another year!