Diabetic Retinopathy Screening

What is a diabetic retinopathy screening?

Diabetic retinopathy screening is an exam that checks  the eye health of children with diabetes. During the exam, the doctor will put drops in your child’s eyes. His vision will be blurry for a short time, but he won’t feel any pain. The doctor will then look inside your child’s eyes with a bright light, examining the tissues at the back of the eye.

A dilated eye exam is not a vision test. The pediatrician, nurse practitioner and the school nurse do vision tests. They are not able to do a dilated eye exam.

To have your child screened, you can make an appointment with an eye doctor who is trained to do a dilated eye exam. You do not have to see a pediatric specialist, but CHOP ophthalmologists offer this test if that is most convenient for your family.


If your child has diabetes, he is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Retinopathy causes changes in the blood vessels in the back of the eyes. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in the United States, but finding it early and treating it can prevent blindness.

Who is screened for diabetic retinopathy?

Every diabetic child should be screened for retinopathy within one year of being diagnosed with diabetes. This exam should be done even if your child’s vision is fine. In the early stages, children with diabetic retinopathy will not show any signs or symptoms of the condition. It’s important not to wait until your child has eye problems to have his eyes examined.


The follow-up eye exam schedule is different for children who have gone through puberty. Puberty increases the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Potential screening schedules for children with diabetes are as follows:

  1. Have not gone through puberty + diabetes for less than 5 years = screened 5 years after diagnosis or when they reach puberty, then every year
  2. Have not gone through puberty + diabetes for more than 5 years = screened every year
  3. Have gone through puberty and/or diabetes for more than 5 years = screened every year

Next Steps
Appointments and Referrals
girl testing blood sugar

Tools to Manage Diabetes

These resources will help your child and family manage blood sugar testing, highs and lows, insulin, nutrition, and more.

young boy smiling

Life With Diabetes

Review our information about support and coping, school, teen topics, and general well-being.