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Diabetes & blindness: The unseen statistics

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 Accounting for 10 per cent of all blindness in Australia, did you know that Australian’s suffering from diabetes are twenty-five times more likely to develop vision loss and that diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of blindness in Australians under the age of 60*?

Despite these overwhelming statistics, nearly 40 percent of Australian’s living with diabetes neglect regular eye examinations, with one in three admitting to never having had their eyes tested.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists’ Eye Foundation (RANZCO Eye Foundation) a national not-for-profit organisation, is once again encouraging all Australians to get their eyes tested this month as part of its annual ‘JulEYE’ campaign.

Jacinta Spurrett, CEO of The Eye Foundation says, “Our message in week two of our community awareness month ‘JulEYE’ is a simple one. In alignment with the Australian Diabetes Council’s ‘Diabetes Awareness Week’, The Eye Foundation will focus on awareness for the prevention and treatment of diabetic retinopathy. Highlighting the link between diabetes and eye health, we will urge people with diabetes – no matter their age – to make regular eye checks part of their diabetes management plan.”

“Diabetic retinopathy is a major – and often overlooked – cause of vision loss and blindness in Australia. 1.2 million Australians have diagnosed diabetes, with approximately one in every six affected by diabetic retinopathy**.”

Nicola Stokes, CEO, Australian Diabetes Council says, “Much of the vision loss that people experience from diabetic retinopathy can be avoided with early detection and treatment, which is why regular eye tests are so important and a key message during Diabetes Awareness Week.”

RANZCO Fellow, Professor Mark Gillies, a specialist in emerging treatments for diabetic eye disease, explains: “In the early stages of diabetic retinopathy, there are usually no warning signs. Diabetes can cause progressive damage to the eye’s retina causing the blood vessels at the back of the eyes to swell and eventually leak fluid.”

“In order to reduce the risk of blindness, people living with diabetes should not wait for symptoms to occur. It is usual for diabetic patients to not exhibit symptoms until after five years from diagnosis. By the time deterioration becomes noticeable, permanent damage may have been done.”

According to Professor Gillies if you have diabetes you need to ensure regular eye checks form part of your overall diabetes management.

“An extensive eye examination should be done as soon as diabetes is diagnosed and at least every two years after that. If diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed, eye examinations may need to be done annually. If early detection is achieved, more than 90 per cent of diabetes related vision loss is preventable and treatable.”

Mrs Spurrett adds, “Vision is like many things: once it is gone you wish you had done more to protect it. No matter whether you suffer  from diabetes or not, make sure that you get your eyes tested this ‘JulEYE’.”

“The Eye Foundation is imploring all Australians – no matter their age – to seek an eye check this JulEYE. Young or old, eye health is just  so important.”

* Australian Diabetes Council – FAQ’s
** Diabetes Australia – National Diabetes Week 10 – 16 July 2011 

(Source: The Eye Foundation)

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Dates

Posted On: 8 July, 2011
Modified On: 15 January, 2014

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