More than 500,000 Australians over the age of 40 are vision impaired or blind and approximately 75 per cent of their conditions could have been prevented or treated if detected earlier.1
This year for World Sight Day on 9 October 2008, Vision 2020 Australia and its 59 members called on Australians to protect their eyes as they get older and have regular eye tests to help prevent permanent vision loss in later years.
"There is a direct link between ageing and vision impairment or blindness, regardless of your location or environment," said CEO of Vision 2020 Australia, Jennifer Gersbeck.
"The major eye diseases that cause blindness and vision impairment in Australia are macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataract. Together with diabetic retinopathy and uncorrected refractive error, they contribute to more than 90 per cent of vision impairment among older Australians."
"Some of these conditions, if caught early, can be treated. A simple, regular eye test and being aware of the health of your eyes can often prevent permanent vision loss," she said.
World Sight Day 2008 aimed to raise awareness among people aged 40 and over that they need to take care of their eye health now.
"Early detection is the key. The earlier you detect and treat a condition the more likely you are to reduce the chance of further vision impairment or blindness in later years," said Ms Gersbeck.
"We need to encourage people who are 40 or older to be vigilant with any changes to their vision, see their eye health professional early and access support services as soon as it is necessary."
Ms Gersbeck said vision impairment and blindness had a significant impact on an individual’s wellbeing and their contribution to the community.
"Older people who are vision impaired or blind are less likely to work than their peers, are more likely to be depressed, have falls and accidents, including traffic accidents, enter nursing homes earlier and die younger," said Ms Gersbeck.
Early intervention also enables people with low vision to maintain their independence.
"Equally important is accessing services for low vision. These services can have a dramatic impact on a person’s quality of life, enabling people with low vision to lead full and active lives" she said.
Eye health tips
- Have your eyes tested regularly if you are over 40, and see your eye health professional immediately if you notice any changes in your vision.
- Have your eyes tested every two years if you: have diabetes, have a family history of glaucoma or macular degeneration or are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.
- Protect your eyes: Wear sunglasses and sun hats whenever you are in the sun. Guit smoking. Wear eye protection at home and at work.
- Access low vision services if you require them.
- Contact your local low vision centre for advice on services, equipment and training.
To raise awareness of the impacts of an ageing eye and eye health for people 40 and over, Vision 2020 Australia’s members held various events Australia-wide on World Sight Day.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Vision problems among older Australians. Bulletin. Issue 27, July 2005.
(Source: Vision 2020 Australia: October 2008)