eye disease

Call for more regular checks for diabetic eye disease in Australia

by Barbara Hewitt on May 30, 2017

Hundreds of thousands of people in Australia with diabetes are at risk of eye damage and blindness amid calls for them to have more regular checks as they do in other countries such as the UK and Sweden.

Some 1.25 million people have the condition and Diabetes Australia says that more than 700,000 people could develop some form of eye disease in the next 20 years and it is trying to raise awareness of the problem.

(guniita/Bigstock.com)

‘Every person with diabetes is at risk of diabetes related retinopathy. Nearly all people with type 1 diabetes and almost 60% of people with type 2 diabetes will develop some form of eye disease within 20 years of diagnosis,’ said Professor Greg Johnson, chief executive officer of Diabetes Australia.

‘We want to ensure that every person with diabetes is aware of the risk to their vision and has regular eye checks,’ he added.

He explained that diabetes-related eye disease is often asymptomatic until it reaches an advanced stage and outcomes of late treatment are usually inferior to early treatment, but the good news is that early detection and timely treatment can prevent the majority of diabetes-related vision loss.

‘In fact, 98% of diabetes-related vision loss can be avoided if detected early. I urge people to get their eyes checked if they have not had a check or are unsure,’ he added.

Professor Johnson said Diabetes Australia was also calling for a more systematic screening programme in Australia. ‘The total indirect cost of vision loss associated with diabetic macular oedema in Australia is estimated to be $2.07 billion per annum,’ he pointed out.

‘The great opportunity is for more systematic screening using retinal photos that can detect eye damage early and lead to more effective treatment for preventing vision loss,’ said Johnson.

‘Australia needs a National Diabetes Blindness Prevention Initiative. Retinal screening programs in the United Kingdom, Iceland, Poland and Sweden have all dramatically decreased the incidence of diabetes related blindness,’ he added.

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