Common eye problems unseen due to lack of awareness

Photo by Eliott Reyna on Unsplash

Many Australians assume eye problems come with ageing and can’t be prevented, however 90% of eye-related problems are preventable with early detection.

Recent research conducted by Optometry Australia for the 2020 Vision Index has revealed that more than a third (35%) of Australians do not undergo regular eye examinations, with an alarming 12% having never had an eye test.

Not getting regular eye examinations can lead to a raft of common eye problems - which can be easily prevented or treated with regular visits to an optometrist.

One of these common eye problems is Presbyopia, which impacts most Australians over 45 years of age; however, according to the 2020 Vision Index Report a whopping 69% of Australians have never heard of the common eye condition.

Presbyopia is the gradual loss of the ability to focus on things that are close up to the eyes which typically comes with ageing. Early signs of presbyopia include small print (especially in low light) being blurred, eye strain and experiencing headaches when reading. Presbyopia can easily be treated by prescribing glasses or contact lenses to enable clear and comfortable reading.

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is also a common undiagnosed and preventable eye condition in Australia, affecting one in seven people. AMD is more likely to occur the older we get and impacts the region of the retina used for central vision and causes severe vision impairment. Early indicators of the disease include difficulty reading, distortion of straight lines, difficulty distinguishing faces, and sensitivity to glare.

As the leading cause of blindness in Australia, it’s concerning that more than one fifth (21%) of Australians are unaware of AMD, particularly given the preventive measures available. Macular Disease Foundation Australia recommends regular exercise and maintaining a nutritious diet to help avoid AMD.

Another common eye disease which is particularly hard to self-diagnose is Glaucoma. Often referred to as the ‘silent thief of sight’, glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye diseases where vision is gradually lost due to damage of the optic nerve. Over 300,000 Australians are affected by the disease, however half of those who have Glaucoma are unaware they do because there are no obvious symptoms such as pain or discomfort. Because of this, it is imperative Australians get their eyes tested regularly, especially if a family member or relative has this condition.

Australians living with diabetes should also be aware of Diabetic Retinopathy. As a common eye disease affecting one in three Australians who have diabetes, diabetic retinopathy is caused by damage to the blood vessels of the retina; with symptoms including blurred vision, fluctuating vision, dots or dark strings in your field of vision, impaired colour vision, as well as partial or total vision loss.

Almost half of Australians (49%) have never heard of diabetic retinopathy, which is alarming given it is a serious complication of diabetes that can cause blindness. The best way to prevent diabetic retinopathy is to ensure you are maintaining a healthy lifestyle and consuming the right foods to manage blood glucose levels.

Hyperopia, also known as long-sightedness, is another common eye condition Australians should be aware of. As a largely genetic eye problem, stemming from the size and shape of the eye, hyperopia can be corrected with glasses and contact lenses. Experiencing general eye discomfort or headaches after reading or staring at a screen, as well as nearby objects appearing blurry, are cues you should get tested for hyperopia.

So whilst ageing certainly isn’t preventable, many eye problems are - it’s vital that people take simple measures to avoid common and preventable eye diseases. General knowledge and awareness of your eye health can help you diagnose early symptoms and, coupled with regular eye examinations, will better your chances of maintaining good vision for life.

If you are experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms or you are concerned about your eyes, contact your local optometrist for expert advice to discuss further.

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