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Diabetic eye screening (DES)

Published on 13 April 2022

Diabetic retinoaphy is an eye condition that occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the cells in the retina. Blood vessels in the retina can leak or become blocked. This condition may cause blindness or serious damage to eyesight, making screening important.

The screening collaborative

We have a coordinating role in the provision of the Diabetic eye Screening (DES) Programme. The Scottish Diabetic Retinopathy Screening (DRS) Collaborative is commissioned by us. The collaborative brings together individuals from all NHS boards in Scotland to facilitate the delivery of the DES Screening Programme. It promotes equitable and accessible delivery of care, supporting health professionals.

Who gets the diabetic eye screening and how does it work?

Screening is an important part of diabetes care. It's offered every year to anyone with diabetes aged 12 or over.

The DES test is done at different locations across Scotland depending on the NHS board. Patients will be written to directly and invited for the test.

Photographs are taken of the back of the eyes. The camera does not come into contact with a patient's eyes. Careful examination of all photographs for signs of retinopathy then happens.

Around one in four people may need to be given eye drops, so that a good photograph can be taken. The appointment will normally last approximately 10 minutes (it may take 30 minutes if eye drops are used). Results are sent to a patient and their GP within four weeks.

Further information for participants:

Find out more information on the NHS Inform website. This includes details around:

  • how to reduce the chances of getting diabetic retinopathy
  • the risks and benefits of screening
  • taking the test

The 'Your guide to diabetic retinopathy screening' booklet is also available from the NHS Health Scotland website.

Further information for health professionals:

Find the screening standards for the programme on the Healthcare Improvement Scotland website.

Health professionals can also visit the NHS Scottish Diabetic Screening Collaborative website for more useful information on the screening programme.

NSD contact

Please note that NSD does not directly provide medical services and we won't be able to answer queries about your own care or appointments. If you would like to discuss any aspects of your care, please contact your primary healthcare provider. This might be your GP, Consultant, Nurse or other healthcare professional. They will be best placed to give you the right advice.