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Growth of diabetes puts eyesight of half a million Victorians at risk say experts

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On World Sight Day two peak health bodies have warned that by 2025 around half a million Victorians risk losing their sight due to the diabetes epidemic facing the nation.

According to Vision 2020 Australia CEO, Jennifer Gersbeck, Victoria is facing a perfect storm as the number of people with diabetes increases, but many are unaware of the serious effect that diabetes can have on vision.

To help people with diabetes save their sight, a new $250,000 partnership project between Vision 2020 Australia and Diabetes Australia – Vic has been announced today to help prevent avoidable blindness and vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy, a serious complication of diabetes affecting the eyes.

The two organisations will work together to target adult Victorians with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes to raise awareness of vision loss associated with diabetes and what can be done to prevent it.

 “Victorians with diabetes will be urged to make eye health a priority from the point of diagnosis and from then on by maintaining healthy blood glucose levels and having regular eye exams” Ms Gersbeck said.

 “Early detection and treatment can control the progression of diabetic retinopathy and prevent up to 98 per cent of severe vision loss. Unfortunately, one in five people with diabetes still do not have regular eye checks” Ms Gersbeck said.

CEO of Diabetes Australia – Vic, Professor Greg Johnson, said eye disease is a real issue for people with diabetes. “We know that the risk of vision loss can be up to 25 times higher for people with diabetes than those without diabetes,” Professor Johnson said.

“Since 2001, the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in Victoria has more than doubled. Currently over 250,000 Victorians have diabetes. It is anticipated that this number will continue rising with nearly half a million Victorians expected to have diabetes by 2025,” he said.

“Recent data shows that less than half of all Victorians with diabetes are achieving the target optimal glucose level for “optimal control” and prevention of complications so we have to do more to help people with diabetes achieve optimal management of this serious condition”, he said.

It is estimated that diabetic retinopathy occurs in over 15 per cent of Australians with diabetes, which means that by 2025 approximately 70,000 people with diabetes in Victoria could develop diabetic retinopathy. However, these figures are considered to be conservative with studies indicating that 25-44 per cent of people with diabetes have some form of diabetic retinopathy at any point in time.

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes and one of today’s leading causes of vision loss in Australia.

Jennifer Gersbeck said: “It is important for all people with diabetes to be aware that they are ALL at risk of developing retinopathy, including young adults (18-39 years) who may be unaware of the risk and may be less likely to book regular eye checks.”

“People may not always experience symptoms when they first develop diabetes, therefore it can go undiagnosed for a long time, causing damage to the body,” she said.

Diabetic retinopathy itself often has no symptoms in its early stage and in many cases vision loss caused by diabetic retinopathy cannot be reversed.

For more information about diabetes visit the Diabetes Australia – Vic website www.diabetesvic.org.au

For more information about diabetic retinopathy, other eye conditions, vision care and low vision services visit the Vision Initiative website at www.visioninitiative.org.au

World Sight Day is on Thursday, 11 October 2012. For more information visit www.worldsightday.org.au

ENDS

Media Contact          

Louise Rudzki, Vision 2020 Australia, (03) 9656 2020, +61 414 784 359, lrudzki@vision2020australia.org.au

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