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Each year 1 in 4 Australians are at risk of losing part or all of their vision to eye disease. Despite the fact that 75 per cent of vision loss is preventable or treatable, 2 out of 5 Australians are still not having their eyes tested at least once every two years, according to the latest Newspoll* commissioned by The RANZCO Eye Foundation as part of its annual ‘JulEYE’ campaign.

The RANZCO (Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists) Eye Foundation, a national not-­for-­profit organisation, annually dedicates the month of July to its community awareness campaign ‘JulEYE’ which is once again encouraging all Australians to discuss their family’s eye health history and have their eyes tested.

Sydney based ophthalmologist and Vice Chairman of The RANZCO Eye Foundation Board, Professor Frank Martin AM, says “it’s alarming that so many Australians don’t take their eye health seriously when the statistics are clearly showing us that one third of Australians fear blindness as much as cancer**.  Sadly, vision loss continues to be a major and often overlooked health problem in Australia, but this simply shouldn’t and doesn’t have to be the case–we need to stop our eye health complacency and schedule regular eye checks just as we would with our dentist or GP.”

The May 2014 Newspoll revealed that nearly half (48 per cent) of all Australians have not had their eyes tested in the last 12 months. The findings showed that among those have not had their eyes tested in the last 12 months, 30 per cent don’t think there is anything wrong with their eyes; 10 per cent haven’t had the time to do it; 4 per cent don’t think it’s a health priority and another 4 per cent feel they are not old enough to worry. These findings reveal there is a lot more education needed for Australians to actively find out about their eye health!

For those who think you’re not old enough to worry, you need to understand that vision loss is not restricted to ageing and can affect people at any stage in their lives. “Most eye diseases are hereditary and can cause blindness in babies, teenagers and adults alike. The main eye diseases that cause vision loss are glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts. Regular eye tests are the most effective way of picking up on changes and identifying problems early,” says Professor Frank Martin AM.

You don’t think there’s anything wrong with your eyes? Well, Kirk Pengilly, INXS band member and ‘JulEYE’ ambassador didn’t know either. Kirk was in his 20s and touring with INXS when he almost lost his sight to severe glaucoma. Waking up one morning after a show with excruciating pain in his eyes and unable to open them, Kirk was fast-tracked to a pioneering Australian ophthalmologist who quickly treated his deteriorating sight with laser surgery in both eyes to prevent further damage. “The thing about eye disease is you can have it and not know you’ve got it until it’s too late,” says Kirk who is once again supporting  the JulEYE campaign.

You haven’t had the time to do it? Make time. “Have your eyes tested this JulEYE. It’s as simple as making an appointment and as serious as saving your eyesight,” says CEO of The RANZCO Eye Foundation, Jacinta Spurrett. 

If you don’t think it’s a health priority, you couldn’t be more incorrect. Since eye disease can strike at any time and most cases are hereditary, it’s  important to discuss your family’s eye health history and get tested as early as possible to ensure you and your family have the best chance against losing your vision. 

Joining the JulEYE call to action, now in its seventh year, is former Dean of law at The University of Sydney and 2011 Senior Australian of the Year, Emeritus Professor Ron McCallum AO; and one of Australia’s highest-selling independent musical artists and motivational speakers, Lorin Nicholson. They are  hoping to raise greater awareness of the importance of eye health and encourage Australians to discuss their family’s eye health history to find out if eye disease is in their genetics. Even if you haven’t noticed changes to your vision, you should still have an eye check, and if necessary see and ophthalmologist this JulEYE.  No one should take his or her eyesight for granted.  To find out where you can be tested, or to donate to The RANZCO Eye Foundation and to support eye health research and sustainable development projects, visit www.eyefoundation.org.au or to join the conversation, go to: http://www.facebook.com/EyeFoundation 

* This Newspoll study was conducted online in May 2014 among n=1232 adults aged 18‐64 nationally.

** “Clear Insight–The Economic Impact and Cost of Vision Loss in Australia” released in August 2004 by Access Economics for Eye Research Australia.

ENDS

Media Contact

Jane Morey, (02) 9954 7955, info@moreymedia.com.au

Key messages for JulEYE

  • The RANZCO Eye Foundation recommends that you have your eyes checked every two years.
  • A regular check-up could help maintain eye health and detect any signs of eye disease early to allow for the best chance of treatment given that 75 per cent of all  cases of vision loss in Australia are preventable or treatable.  
  • The JulEYE campaign is supported by Novartis Australia, Allergan and Pfizer. 
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