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World Diabetes Day Highlights Lack of Awareness of Diabetic Eye Disease

Optometrists are urged to encourage patients living with diabetes to make regular eye tests a priority. This will reduce the risk of serious vision loss or blindness.

The Assistant Minister for Health, Fiona Nash, joined the Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA) today in warning that many people did not understand that eye disease was a common consequence of diabetes.

“On World Diabetes Day today, I encourage all Australians who have or are at risk of developing diabetes to think carefully about how they would cope with losing their sight,” Minister Nash said.

“Diabetes-related eye disease is the leading cause of blindness and serious vision loss in working aged Australians. This is only likely to worsen as Type 2 diabetes becomes more common, fuelled by the rising incidence of overweight and obesity.

The Chief Executive of MDFA, Julie Heraghty, said everyone with diabetes was at risk of developing diabetic eye disease – primarily diabetic retinopathy.

“Early diabetic retinopathy usually does not have any symptoms, and progressive damage can occur before a patient notices any effects on their vision,” Ms Heraghty said.

“The longer a person has have had diabetes, the higher the chance they will get retinopathy. It is essential that people with diabetes have regular eye examinations so that changes can be detected early and treatment delivered before irreversible vision loss occurs.

“People with diabetes must have a comprehensive eye exam at least every two years and if there is any evidence of diabetic eye disease, these tests should be done every 12 months, or more often if advised by the ophthalmologist or optometrist.”

Minister Nash said the Government was looking forward to receiving the advice of the National Diabetes Strategy Advisory Group, regarding ways to improve prevention and management of diabetes.

The Macular Disease Foundation Australia has released a free publication for the public and health care professionals called Diabetic Eye Disease. The free publication is available from the Foundation. Contact (AUS)1800 111 709.