Diabetic eye screening drops

This information is for anybody who has diabetic eye screening using tropicamide 1% eye drops. Diabetic eye screening is a test to check for eye problems caused by diabetes.

Tropicamide is a medicine that we use to widen (dilate) the pupils (black centres) of the eyes. This allows us to examine the back of your eyes in detail. We give you tropicamide as eye drops.

The effects of the eye drops can last for up to 6 hours. It is important to:

•    know the possible side effects until your sight returns to normal
•    recognise when you may need to get medical advice

If you have any more questions, please speak to a healthcare professional looking after you.

Diabetic eye screening

If you have diabetes and are aged 12 or over, you get a letter every year asking you to have your eyes checked.

There is a national diabetic eye screening programme. If you live in south east London, the south east London diabetic eye screening programme offers this service.

Diabetic eye screening is a way to check for any eye problems caused by diabetes. These problems are called diabetic retinopathy and can lead to sight loss if not found early.

We use eye drops to make your pupils bigger. Then, we take good quality, digital photos of the back of your eyes. This helps us to find any problems before they affect your sight.

Side effects of the eye drops

The eye drops have some short-term side effects. These can include:

  • blurry sight
  • being sensitive to bright light
  • temporary stinging and a dry mouth after using the eye drops

The effects of the eye drops usually last 2 to 4 hours, but can continue for up to 6 hours. There are things that you can do to stay safe and comfortable during this time.


  • wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from bright light
  • bring someone with you to take you home, if possible


  • do not drive or use heavy machinery until your sight returns to normal and your eyes are comfortable

Rare complications of the eye drops

Very rarely, the eye drops can cause a sudden, dramatic rise in pressure within your eye. This is called acute glaucoma and needs to be treated quickly in an eye unit.

Return immediately to the eye unit or go to A&E if you:

  • have severe pain or discomfort in your eyes
  • have redness in the white part of your eyes
  • have constantly blurred sight, sometimes with rainbow rings (halos) around lights
  • feel sick (nausea)
  • are being sick (vomiting)

If you are concerned about any other symptoms after diabetic eye screening, please contact your GP. There is information on other possible side effects in the manufacturer's leaflet for the eye drops. Please ask our staff if you would like a copy.

You can find emergency departments with a specialist eye casualty (offering an accident and emergency eye service) at these hospitals:

Resource number: 3528/VER4
Last reviewed: September 2022
Next review due: September 2025

A list of sources is available on request.

Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the diabetic eye screening programme (DESP) administration team.

Phone: 020 7188 1979

We answer the phone from Monday to Friday, 9am to 4.30pm (not including bank holidays).

Email: [email protected]

We aim to respond to emails within 2 working days, but it may take longer.

We’re open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 4.30pm, and on some Saturdays.

Pharmacy medicines helpline

If you have any questions or concerns about your medicines, please speak to the staff caring for you.

You can also contact our pharmacy medicines helpline.

Phone: 020 7188 8748, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Email: [email protected]

Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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