Ebony Sodomaco woke one morning and realised that she couldn’t see more than a metre in front of her. After making an urgent appointment with an optometrist, Ebony discovered she was legally blind in one eye and rapidly losing vision in the other.
Twenty-two years earlier, Ebony now 25, was diagnosed with diabetes and while contemplating, on numerous occasions, to visit an optometrist, she kept putting it on the backburner. Unfortunately, Ebony now joins the thousands of people who have, or are losing their eye sight due to diabetes related eye disease.
According to the Centre for Eye Health Australia (CERA), on average one in three people with diabetes will develop some form of diabetic eye disease which equals about 423,000 Aussies – one third of those registered on the National Diabetes Services Scheme.
Chief Clinical Officer of Optometry Australia, Luke Arundel said, “If you have diabetes, it is critical that you take the time to have a comprehensive eye examination as diabetes related eye disease is one of the leading causes of blindness globally. Yet, diagnosed early enough, eye sight loss from diabetes is preventable”.
He explained that, like Ebony, many people do not even know they have a diabetes-related disease because often the disease lacks early symptoms.
The USA’s National Eye Institute quotes that early detection, timely treatment and follow up can reduce the risk of severe vision loss by up to 95 per cent.
Associate Professor Peter Van Wijngaarden of CERA said every time someone comes to see him and they have never before had an eye examination yet are in advanced stages of diabetic eye disease, it distresses him.
“We would like a time when white canes are no longer seen in our practices because of diabetes.
“The problem, however, is that people are not reminded to have an eye check”.
KeepSight is the missing link that will keep Aussies with diabetes, and who are registered for the KeepSight program, more engaged in their eye health care. It is the first national recall and reminder system introduced domestically to remind those with diabetes to have regular eye examinations.
The introduction of similar schemes in other countries has had tremendous success with A/Prof Wijngaarden highlighting England and Wales as terrific case studies. He explained that a recall and reminder system was established there in 2003 and by 2013 diabetic eye disease was no longer the leading cause of preventable blindness. Yet, in the 50 preceding years, diabetes was the main cause of vision loss in working class Britain.
Luke Arundel said optometrists would welcome a similar outcome in Australia.
“Any loss of vision, let alone completely losing your eye sight is a tragedy, particularly when that loss could be preventable with early diagnosis.
“We implore anyone with diabetes to make an appointment today to have a comprehensive eye examination. And when you do, please ask your optometrist to register you as part of the KeepSight program so that you will receive reminders when your next examination is due.
“Use our Find an optometrist search service to find an optometrist near you. This appointment could save your sight”.