Focus on eyes on World Diabetes Day

Australia’s best known organisation devoted to ending avoidable blindness has turned its sights on a serious complication of diabetes involving eyes.

The Foundation's Dr Ciku Mathenge training health staff to detect retinopathy. Photo: Kabir Dhanji  Fluctuating blood sugar levels can damage the retina, causing blurred or distorted vision and potential loss of sight if left untreated – a condition called diabetic retinopathy.

“By 2030, diabetes could become the leading cause of blindness,” says Brian Doolan, CEO of The Fred Hollows Foundation.

Doolan says within two decades an estimated 156 million people could be at risk, 4 out of 5 of whom won’t have access to adequate eye care services.

“Urgent action is needed to help people avoid blindness from diabetic retinopathy through access to a sight-saving annual eye examination.”

Doolan says even Australians living with diabetes are not aware that they need to have their eyes screened regularly and some have already gone blind.

Diabetic Retinopathy is already the main cause of blindness among working age adults worldwide.

People most at risk are those with poorly managed diabetes or high blood sugar levels and high blood pressure, particularly if they also have kidney disease.

World Diabetes Day (WDD) is celebrated every year on November 14.

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4 out of 5 people who are blind in the developing world don't need to be. Routine treatment costing as little as $25 can restore sight and hope.

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Fred Hollows in Vietnam in 1992. Photo: Michael Amendolia

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