Diabetic retinopathy

If you have diabetes, your eyes are at risk of damage from diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to sight loss if it's not treated. Eye screening is a key part of your diabetes care.

What are the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy?

In its early stages, diabetic retinopathy does not usually cause any noticeable symptoms, so you may not even know you have it.

But screening can detect the condition before you notice any changes to your vision. If it is detected early enough, management of the condition can stop it getting worse. Otherwise, by the time symptoms become noticeable, it can be much more difficult to treat.

The day of your appointment

The check takes about 30 minutes and involves examining the eyes and taking photographs of the retina to assess its health.

Bring all the glasses and contact lenses you wear, along with lens solution for contacts.

Drops may be used to examine your eyes in a diabetic appointment – these can temporarily affect your vision. Please check when making the appointment if you will be able to drive immediately after the appointment.

You may be referred to an ophthalmologist if:

  • The photographs are not clear enough to give an accurate result
  • You have retinopathy that could affect your sight and follow-up treatment is needed
  • You have retinopathy that needs to be checked more than once a year
  • Other eye conditions are detected, such as glaucoma or cataracts

If your results show no retinopathy or background retinopathy, you will be invited back for another screening appointment a year later.

National Diabetes Eye Screening Program

In July 2018, the Turnbull Government announced funding for a new eye health screening program for Australians with diabetes to help reduce the number of Australians experiencing vision loss and blindness as a result of diabetes.

The eye screening program will create an electronic eye health record for people living with diabetes who are registered on the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS), which can be used by patients’ nominated health providers to track and manage their eye health. It will also establish an alert system to remind people with diabetes to have regular eye checks, ensuring those most at risk don’t slip through the cracks.

Specsavers has committed to co-funding the multi-million dollar program, investing $1 million a year for 5 years, and has partnered with Diabetes Australia to promote patient awareness and mobilisation.

Did you know?

Eye tests are bulk billed to Medicare so there are no out of pocket expenses for you.

Frequently asked questions

Listed on a valid Medicare card without Optometry restrictions.