OPTOMETRISTS are urging diabetic residents to book in for eye checks due to fears they could be at risk of eye disease.
The leading cause of blindness in Australia isn't glaucoma or cataracts - it's diabetic retinopathy.
Armidale optometrist Anthony Siviter is encouraging locals with diabetes in the area to be mindful of their eye health as they could be at risk of the condition undiagnosed, which can be sight threatening.
Diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of blindness in Australia, and on average, one in three people with diabetes will develop some form of diabetic retinopathy in their lifetime. Optometrists want to ensure that locals are aware of the importance of eye health and having regular (at least yearly) eye checks.
Early detection is the key to successfully managing diabetic retinopathy, as when symptoms become noticeable, it can often be more difficult to treat.
"If you're living with diabetes, your eyes are at risk of damage from diabetic retinopathy," Mr Siviter said,
"I recommend all patients with diabetes or with a family history of diabetes to keep their eye checks front of mind.
"Even individuals with well-controlled diabetes can have diabetic retinopathy, so a regular check-up is important regardless of any symptoms," he said.
According to the National Diabetes Services Scheme, 4.4 per cent of the population in Armidale are living with diabetes, which is the equivalent to 1540 locals.
Diabetes is said to affect more males than females with Specsavers data finding a higher proportion of men were referred to specialists for diabetes related eye diseases.
And with the number of people with diabetes expected to double by 2025, now is the time to take action.
While diabetic retinopathy is currently the leading cause of blindness it is preventable and manageable if detected early.
But with GP's not equipped or trained to perform scans of the eye, Tamworth optometrist Fiona Huq said it was essential to be booking an appointment with an optometrist.
"We're starting to see that most of our patients are coming back for their regular check-ups but there's still a lot of people we fear we are missing," she said.
"If you're diabetic you should be having an annual eye test."
When the disease is picked up early, treatment involves a change of lifestyle or medication to bring blood sugar levels under control.
"That in itself will help the eye heal and those tiny bleeds that we tend to see will resolve," Ms Huq said.
But if the disease is caught at a later stage, patients will be referred to an eye specialist who will administer laser eye treatment or injections.
Ms Huq said it was also important for family members of those living with diabetes to get regular check-ups in case the condition is hereditary.
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