50 per cent of people living with diabetes are missing out on diabetes eye checks to prevent blindness

A new University of Sydney study has found only half of people living with diabetes get the recommended diabetes eye checks putting them at risk of significant vision loss and blindness.

Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in working age Australians. All people with diabetes are at risk of diabetes related retinopathy which causes damage to the back of the eye. Most people with diabetes need a diabetes eye check every two years, and some more frequently.

Diabetes Australia is confident that its new KeepSight program, commenced just over 12 months ago, will help ensure that the proportion of people with diabetes accessing eye checks increases in coming years and ultimately, every person with diabetes get the necessary eye checks that are key to preventing avoidable vision loss.

Diabetes Australia CEO Professor Greg Johnson said KeepSight has enrolled 100,000 people since it started last year. KeepSight is an online eye check reminder program easily accessed from a mobile phone.

“Having 100,000 Australians with diabetes registered with KeepSight is an important milestone for the program – but there are currently over 1.36 million Australians living with diabetes so we are encouraging every person with diabetes, and all health professionals, to register with KeepSight,” Professor Johnson said.

“The good news is that almost all diabetes-related blindness is preventable if detected and treated early.

“Keep Sight provides electronic alerts and reminders to help people with diabetes remember their diabetes eye checks. When it’s time for a diabetes eye check you get a reminder. It’s that simple. KeepSight can also help you find an optometrist if you don’t know one.

“Diabetes is a complex condition and people with diabetes need to have many regular health checks to manage their condition. It can be time-consuming and sometimes things get overlooked.”

The University of Sydney research study, published in Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology, linked data from the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up study with Medicare Benefits data to examine how frequently almost 25,000 people in NSW living with diabetes had eye examinations.

Researchers found people who had been living with diabetes for 10 or more years were even less likely to get regular eye checks, with almost 80 per cent of people not partaking in the annual check recommended for this group.

Co-author and ophthalmologist Professor Mark Gillies from the University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine and Health and Save Sight Institute said the findings reinforced the need for more education.

“Ninety-eight per cent of serious vision loss from diabetes can be prevented with regular eye examinations and early treatment,” said Professor Gillies.

“I encourage people to use services like KeepSight to keep on top of their appointments. It’s also important they understand the kind of eye check required, as only eye checks that include dilation of the pupil with eye drops (fundus dilation) is appropriate to detect changes in the eye related to diabetes.”

The KeepSight program, which is run by Diabetes Australia in partnership with Vision 2020 Australia, Centre for Eye Research Australia and Oculo, has been co-funded by the Australian Government, Specsavers, Bayer, Novartis and Mylan. The program has widespread support from leading diabetes and eye health groups including the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists, Orthoptics Australia, Optometry Australia, the Australian Diabetes Society and the Australian Diabetes Educators Association.

Declaration: The research was supported by an Australian Diabetes Servier Research Grant and a Diabetes Australia Research Trust Grant. Professor Gillies has received research funding from, and is on advisory boards for Bayer and Novartis.

Courtesy of Diabetes Australia