Diabetes Eye Screening Ottawa

Diabetes Eye Screening Ottawa (DESO) is a FREE service offering community-based eye screening services to adults in Ottawa diagnosed with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. DESO’s eye screening services are free for insured and uninsured individuals. Currently, DESO resources are available in English, French (Français) and Mandarin (普通). As the DESO program grows, resources will be available in more languages. DESO partners with community language interpreters to make the service as accessible as possible. 

DESO is hosted by the Centretown Community Health Centre, in collaboration with the Ottawa Hospital Research & Eye Institute. 

Who can get an eye screening?

Individuals must meet the following criteria to be screened :

  • Adult age 18+
  • Diagnosis of diabetes (Type 1, 2) 
  • Not had a diabetic retinopathy eye exam within the past 12 months

How to Book for Screening

Referrals need a Physician or Nurse Practitioner signature to be processed. Healthcare providers can complete this form and fax to DESO to refer clients.

Allied health professionals can refer and individuals can self-refer to the program but a physician’s or nurse practitioner’s signature is required to proceed with the referral. DESO facilitates the signature process for individuals who do not have a healthcare provider. 

Clients can complete DESO’s Self-Referral Form or contact the DESO team by telephone. Uninsured individuals (i.e. who do not have OHIP or IFHP) can access DESO’s screening program at no cost :


Screening is painless and can detect problems before vision loss occurs and treatment can make a difference. Screening is different from the basic eye exam received for glasses. It involves measuring how well you see, what the pressure is in your eyes, and taking pictures of the back of your eyes.

What is diabetic retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that may occur in people living with diabetes. It is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness for adults in Canada. Diabetic retinopathy involves changes to blood vessels in the retina (back of the eye) that can lead to vision changes if it goes unnoticed and is not treated early.

Who can get diabetic retinopathy?

People living with diabetes can be at high risk of getting diabetic retinopathy if they have been living with high blood sugar for a long period. Diabetes can make you more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy and other eye conditions that reduce vision such as cataracts and glaucoma.

How do I know if I have diabetic retinopathy?

There are usually no symptoms in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. As the retinopathy gets worse, you may see dark, floating spots or lines that look like cobwebs. If you get your eyes checked (screened) regularly, you are 95% more likely to prevent vision loss.

To learn more about diabetic retinopathy screening and DESO, watch our program video, or read this flyer. 

To learn how to prepare for your eye screening appointment, watch this video or read this flyer.

For information about what to do after you have had your eyes screened, click here

For general questions, check out these FAQs.

If you are a health care provider, and would like to learn more about our program, receive promotional materials, referral forms or schedule a presentation, please contact us!

If you have questions, contact Diabetes Eye Screening Ottawa :

420 Cooper Street, Ottawa, ON  K2P 2N6
Phone: 613-233-4443 ext. 2196
Fax: 613-774-7235, toll free: 1-833-384-9993