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HomeminewsPatient Eye Tests In July

Patient Eye Tests In July

Throughout the month of July the message to consumers is going to be loud and clear – “get your eyes tested in July”.

This very important message is the focus of the Eye Foundation’s “julEYE” campaign this year.

julEYE is the annual campaign run by the Eye Foundation – a not-for-profit organisation – to raise the profile of eye health in Australia.

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Throughout the month of July the message to consumers is going to be loud and clear – “get your eyes tested in July”.

75 per cent of vision loss is preventable or treatable, yet amazingly, every 65 minutes, an Australian loses part or all of his or her vision.

Jacinta Spurrett, Chief Executive Officer of the Eye Foundation hopes people of all ages will put eye health on their calendar as they do their other regular medical health checks.

“Vision loss can affect people at any time in their lives and it will often happen gradually, so by the time it becomes noticeable, the damage is done. We want all Australians – young and old – to get their eyes tested in July,” says Ms. Spurrett.

Kirk Pengilly, INXS band member and Eye Foundation ambassador, was in his 20s and touring with INXS when he almost lost his sight to severe glaucoma.

“One morning after a show, I woke up with excruciating pain in my eyes and found that I couldn’t open them. I was fast tracked to a pioneering Australian ophthalmologist who quickly treated my deteriorating sight with laser surgery in both eyes to prevent further damage.

“I was incredibly lucky I didn’t go blind,” says Pengilly.

Amber Wilson was only 21 years old when she first noticed a change in her vision. She was at the Tropfest short film festival in Sydney in 2004 and realised she couldn’t focus on the screen unless she put one hand over her left eye.

“I wasn’t that worried about it, but I thought it was a bit weird,” she says. Amber saw an optometrist the next day and was told to go to the emergency department at the Sydney Eye Hospital. There she was referred to ophthalmologist Professor Mark Gillies. “I was diagnosed with idiopathic choroidal neovascularisation. It’s like a form of macular degeneration (MD) but MD usually occurs in older people,” says Amber.

“It affected my left eye, causing distorted vision, and it was treated with laser surgery.”

After that initial treatment, Amber’s vision was restored to normal, except for a slight blind spot in her left eye. “I didn’t need glasses and just had to have regular eye checks.”

A few years later, in September 2008, Amber noticed some more distortion in the vision in her left eye. “I noticed it really early this time, because I was aware of what to look for,” she says.

“It turned out to be a recurrence of the same problem I had in 2004,” she recalls.

Fortunately for Amber, there had been advances in treatment in the four years since her initial diagnosis. “I wasn’t able to have repeat laser eye surgery in the same area, as it would have destroyed my central vision. But luckily there was a new treatment – a series of injections, into the eyeball, of a drug called Avastin.

“I was a little bit freaked out about the concept of injections into the eye when I first heard about it, but it wasn’t actually that bad,” she says. “I’m incredibly grateful something could be done for my vision.”

As for the future, Amber will continue to have regular eye checks. She works at the Department of Planning in Sydney, enjoys reading and movies, and says good vision is possible due to continued advances in treatment.

“I’m incredibly grateful for all the eye research that has been done, because the treatment options improved so much in the four years between my first episode and the second one. I experienced the direct benefit from that research, and I’m certainly keen for as much research to be done as possible,” she says.

As well as raising funds for various organisations, including: The Australian and New Zealand Registry of Advanced Glaucoma; The Australian and New Zealand (Rare Eye Diseases) Surveillance Unit; The Fight Retinal Blindness Project and The Minum Barreng National Indigenous Eye Health survey; julEYE also funds sustainable eye health services in disadvantaged communities, both nationally and internationally.

Blindness is both a cause and a result of poverty. When people regain their vision, their quality of life is vastly improved. The Eye Foundation currently supports international sustainable development projects in Myanmar (formerly Burma) and East Timor and has recently funded, with the Fred Hollows Foundation, a successful Central Australian indigenous project.