Why you should visit an optometrist this National Diabetes Week

New data from the 2021 Census has revealed that 1.3 million Australians are currently living with diabetes – with Type 2 diabetes being most common. It also found that the rate of diabetes increased with age, with almost one in five (19.2%) people aged over 75 years having the disease.

Why is this important?

Of those living with diabetes, almost everyone with Type 1 diabetes, and more than 60 per cent of those with Type 2 diabetes will develop some form of diabetic eye disease within 20 years of their diagnosis.

For the majority, this will be diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease that can lead to blindness if not detected and treated early in patients. In fact, diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in working age Australians.

That’s why, especially during National Diabetes Week (10-16 July), it’s paramount that Australians remember to have routine eye checks with an optometrist – even if you may feel like nothing is wrong.

The best way to detect the disease is to have a comprehensive eye exam as, like with many eye diseases, diabetic retinopathy can present no symptoms until it is too late. If detected late, this will increase your risk of irreversible vision loss.

For those with diabetes, it is recommended that you visit an optometrist every 12 months unless instructed otherwise.

If you do not have a local optometrist, you can use our easy Find an optometrist tool to search for one near you.

Are you at risk?

It’s important to understand that anyone who has diabetes is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is not limited to age – all people with diabetes can develop this eye disease.

Diabetes damages the fine blood vessels at the back of the eye, causing them to leak and hence lead to vision loss. The longer you have diabetes, the more at risk you are of developing diabetic retinopathy and if your blood sugar levels are consistently high, this also increases your risk.

How do you maintain good vision if you’re living with diabetes?

There are many ways to keep on top of your eye health. In fact, diabetes-related blindness can be prevented or delayed 98% of the time.

  • Focus on your diet. Studies have indicated that consuming a healthy diet reduces the risk of disease overall and helps prevent eye diseases.
  • Maintain healthy lifestyle choices. Behavioural changes, such as exercising and quitting smoking can help control the risk of factors associated with diabetes.
  • Visit your optometrist. This is the most important way to keep on top of your eye health, especially if you have diabetes. Optometrists can work closely with you to manage your eye health.

For more information on National Diabetes Week, head to Diabetes Australia’s website here.

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