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Diabetic RetinaScreen delivers over 800,000 free screening tests since 2013

Gordon Hynes, patient advocate, Diabetic RetinaScreen



“It’s a must-do; your eyes could start to deteriorate quicker than they should. You have to be on top of it and you do that through screening,” according to Gordon Hynes, speaking in relation to the importance of attending Diabetic RetinaScreen – the free, national screening programme that helps find and treat serious eye disease in people with diabetes.

The HSE Diabetic RetinaScreen programme recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. Over 800,000 free retinopathy screening tests have been carried out in that time with the number of participants doubling since it first began in 2013.

Diabetic retinopathy

The first person was screened for diabetic retinopathy through the programme in March 2013 with a further 6,000 screens delivered that year. That number has risen to over 113,000 screens in 2022 and the programme is on track to deliver the same level of activity in 2023. Screening for diabetic retinopathy is carried out through a network of over 130 community-based screening locations.

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes that affects the small blood vessels at the back of the eye, in an area called the retina. It can cause the blood vessels in the retina to leak or become blocked and damage a person’s sight. However, when retinopathy is caught early, treatment is effective at reducing or preventing damage to the sight.

Gordon, a patient advocate, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 26 years old. Gordon started attending diabetic retina screening after he had a car accident, two years after his diagnosis. The car accident was caused by low blood sugar. Gordon reflected that “the accident was the best thing that happened to me. It enabled me to get a team around me. I got a dietitian, a nutritionist, diabetic nurses, and a specialist.”


Speaking about his experience with the programme, Gordon said it was a “comfort to know what stage I’m at in terms of eye care. I have regular eye tests, and over the last six years, there has been no deterioration. It’s great peace of mind. Retina screening tells me that I’m doing well; that I’m controlling my sugar levels. It’s good to have all this help around me, checking what needs to be checked.”

Professor David Keegan, Diabetic RetinaScreen Clinical Director, explained that they “screen over 100,000 people each year, and refer over 7,000 people to one of our treatment clinics for further tests or treatment. Through screening, we can help detect possible problems with people’s eyes and treat them with the aim of reducing or preventing damage to their sight. I would like to thank everyone involved in the programme over the past 10 years - screeners, screening providers, hospitals, GPs, diabetes nurses, ophthalmologists, optometrists, obstetricians, endocrinologists and our team who run the programme. I would particularly like to thank the thousands of people with diabetes who make it their business to choose to come for screening every year.”


Diabetic RetinaScreen Programme Manager Helen Kavanagh added that “over the past ten years, the diabetic retina screening programme has grown and developed so that we can provide the best possible screening service. We have introduced a number of new pathways, including digital surveillance eye screening, which provides more frequent monitoring for people whose screening has shown changes due to diabetes in the retina. We have also introduced two-yearly screening for people whose last two consecutive diabetic retinopathy screening tests showed no retinopathy. And earlier this year, we were delighted to launch a new screening initiative for women who have diabetes and become pregnant.”

Helen added that “a 2023 national survey for Diabetic RetinaScreen found that just under one in four people who have diabetes or have a spouse or child with diabetes, report that they know very little or nothing about diabetic retinopathy.  We clearly would encourage everyone who has diabetes themselves, or who has a family member with diabetes, to find out more about this condition - they can go to our website or talk to their GP or diabetes healthcare professional. We have also been running an advertising campaign during October and November to raise awareness of diabetic retinopathy and the importance of screening.”

Find further information on Diabetic RetinaScreen