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Waistline worry for eye health on World Diabetes Day

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On the eve of World Diabetes Day (14 November) the national peak body for eye health and vision care is warning Australia’s diabetes epidemic will mean worrying results for eye health.

Vision 2020 Australia CEO Jennifer Gersbeck said expanding Australian waistlines pointed to a potential increase in diabetic eye disease.

“As a nation, we are becoming more overweight leading to a growth in type 2 diabetes and this is putting Australians more at risk of eye disease,” Ms Gersbeck said.

“The number of Australians known to be living with diabetes increases by approximately 275 new cases each day. Unfortunately, this number is expected to rise as the incidence of people who are overweight and obese increases,” she said.

“Alarmingly, our lifestyles mean that 63.4 per cent of Australians are overweight or obese."

The prevalence of diabetes in Australia has dramatically increased over the past 10 years. In 2001, 554,200 Australians had diabetes, but 2012 statistics show that this figure has dramatically increased to 875,000.

Around 4 per cent of Australia’s population now has some form of diabetes, putting an increased number of Australians at risk of severe health issues such as stroke, heart disease, kidney damage and vision loss, unless they move to a healthier lifestyle.

In Australia, around 15 per cent of people with diabetes have diabetic eye disease. However, some studies show that this figure could be as high as 40 per cent.

Diabetes can affect vision temporarily or permanently. When blood sugar levels change quickly, it can affect the shape of the eye’s lens causing blurry vision which goes back to normal once blood sugar stabilises. Too much glucose in the blood over an extended period of time can cause damage to the small blood vessels in the retina leading to diabetic eye disease known as diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy commonly affects both eyes and often has no symptoms in its early stages. As the condition progresses, symptoms can include blurred or distorted vision, increased sensitivity to glare and difficulty seeing at night. In many cases vision loss caused by diabetic retinopathy cannot be reversed. Having regular eye examinations by an eye health professional like an optometrist or ophthalmologist is the best way to detect diabetic retinopathy early.

“The good news is that 98 per cent of severe vision loss from diabetic retinopathy is preventable or treatable. By leading a healthy lifestyle and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels people with diabetes can take a positive step to reduce their risk of vision loss,” Ms Gersbeck said.

ENDS

Media Contact

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

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