Every year in Australia, more than 1,600 children are diagnosed with significant vision impairment – an average of four children a day whose lives will change forever. They are among the thousands of Australians of all ages who needlessly go blind or require eye surgery each year.
The impact of vision impairment is considered so great that a recent national survey commissioned by The Eye Surgeons’ Foundation as part of its annual JulEYE campaign found that Australians rate blindness as the health condition they would struggle most to live with.
The Eye Surgeons’ Foundation is the official charity of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists and The Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia, and each year dedicates the month of JulEYE to raising vital funds for ground-breaking medical eye research.
Lisa Cheng, CEO of The Eye Surgeons’ Foundation, explains: 'Visual impairment is not just a problem for the ageing. Losing your sight to eye disease such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and other rare diseases is a life sentence, and one that affects more than 435,000 Australians. Vision loss adversely affects people’s independence and ability to go about living their daily lives, and for those without supportive family and friends it negates any reasonable quality of life.'
The latest survey results commissioned by The Eye Surgeons’ Foundation and conducted by the Shopper Data Group in June 2017 revealed that:
- 20 per cent of respondents believe blindness is the health condition they would find hardest to live with; this is ahead of cancer at 18 per cent and loss of mobility at 14 per cent
- 30 per cent recognised that not being able to drive due to diminishing or loss of sight would adversely affect their independence
- 20 per cent of respondents felt not being able to see their family and loved ones, something they often take for granted, would adversely affect their wellbeing
- 13 per cent recognised the impact that loss of sight would have on their ability to read
- 7 per cent recognised that loss of sight would limit work options.
The main eye diseases that cause vision loss are glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and numerous rare eye diseases. While regular eye tests are the most effective way of detecting changes and identifying problems early, research is essential to find a cure.
'With 75 per cent of Australians needlessly vision impaired and the other 25 per cent needing a cure, The Eye Surgeons’ Foundation has made it our goal to create a future where no one is blind,' Ms Cheng says.
'To achieve this we must continue to support worldâ€class research, and invest in the future of eye health by working with visionaries in their field – the eye surgeons, researchers and academics.'
For the first time in the history of the JulEYE campaign, The Eye Surgeons’ Foundation will be hosting the EYECon Night Walk at the culmination of JulEYE on 29 July. Starting at Barangaroo Reserve at 6pm, the five kilometre walk will take in some of Sydney’s most famous EYECons – Anzac Bridge, Sydney Harbour, Circular Quay and Overseas Passenger Terminal – from different vantage points. The walk will be led by JulEYE ambassador and INXS band member Kirk Pengilly, who was in his 20s and touring with INXS when he almost lost his sight to severe glaucoma.
Those who don’t live in Sydney are encouraged to register for the EYECon Night Walk in their town and download custom EYECon walking maps for Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, so they can host their own fundraising event with family and friends. During the month of July, The Eye Surgeons’ Foundation invites everyone to appreciate the sight they have. Register for JulEYE for $35, celebrate your vision, and help raise vital funds to help end blindness. Then join the foundation for the EYECon Night Walk in Sydney on 29 July 2017 and raise much-needed funds for visionary medical research.
To find out more about JulEYE and register your support for much-â€needed medical research to help end preventable blindness, visit Juleye.com.au.