Every person with diabetes is at risk of losing their eyesight. And yet, as few as one in five (20 per cent) Indigenous Australians suffering from diabetes will get their eyes regularly tested, in addition to only 50 per cent of non-Indigenous citizens. What's more, the low figures haven't changed over a decade. These are the recent findings of the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA), which show a need for increased support to improve eye care.
Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in Australians today, according to CERA. Over the past decade, more than 10,000 Australians have lost their vision due to the disease, reported the Herald Sun this month. A further 300,000 have diabetic retinopathy, which damages blood vessels in the retinas and reduces vision to the point where it can affect everyday processes, such as watching TV.
As a result of these poor figures, experts are calling for more in-depth and regular eye screenings for diabetes sufferers in order to catch and treat the effects early.
At the moment, Australian residents can receive treatments for chronic eye conditions, such as glaucoma and cataracts, and can find themselves covered for exams and surgical procedures with Medicare, depending on the severity of the conditions.
However, despite taking the vision of thousands of Australians, diabetes sufferers are limited in their Medicare cover to receiving one eye screening by a state-authorised eye doctor every 12 months. Many think this is not enough to contain the problem and treat it early.
Private health insurance, meanwhile, can offer ancillary treatment for eye care to protect people most at risk from diabetes and other eye problems.
Better eye care is needed
CERA Principal Investigators Dr Mo Dirani and Dr Peter van Wijngaarden explained that identifying problems is key to improving eye care for diabetes sufferers.
"Early detection and timely treatment is the only way to prevent the majority of diabetes-related vision loss," Dr Dirani said.
However, the current Medicare offering is not providing enough of a service to reduce the high vision-loss figures.
"Many Australians are being failed by the current ad hoc approach to eye examinations," Dr Van Wijngaarden concluded.
Eye screening for diabetes sufferers is not such an issue in other countries, CERA added, with the disease no longer the leading cause of blindness in the UK, thanks to a more robust screening program.
For those considering private health insurance, the variety of care packages make it important to choose the right level of cover to suit an individual's needs. That is why it is important to compare health insurance and seek expert advice when searching for the best protection.
To discuss your options, call HICA today on 1300 44 22 01.