Diabetes Australia welcomes action on preventable diabetes-related blindness 4 May 2016 Funding for eye tests for people with diabetes contained in the 2015-16 Federal Budget is an important step towards ending diabetes-related blindness- one of the most debilitating yet preventable complications of diabetes, Diabetes Australia said today. Diabetes Australia CEO Adjunct Professor Greg Johnson said enhancing testing for diabetic retinopathy would benefit around 370,000 Australians at risk of preventable diabetes-related blindness. “Diabetes is the leading cause of preventable blindness in Australia, this is a tragedy that we can prevent with coordinated action,” A/Professor Johnson said. “Diabetes Australia has been making the case to the Federal Government over a number of years and we congratulate the Health Minister, Sussan Ley and the Government for taking action on this critical issue. Funding of $33.8 million, over four years, means around 370,000 people, roughly a quarter of whom will be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, will receive eye tests. “People with diabetes should have their eyes checked every two years, and annually for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders – but too often this just doesn’t happen and people with diabetes can go for many years without eye checks and turn up at hospitals with very serious, hard to treat eye problems” he said. “We need to ensure that every Australian with diabetes gets their eyes checked according to the guidelines and this new funding will help. Diabetic retinopathy is eye damage that will occur in around 50% of people with diabetes at some stage in their life- currently there are over 1.2 million Australians diagnosed with diabetes.” Professor Johnson highlighted the focus on regional and remote communities saying it was important that people outside of metropolitan areas did not miss out. “Rates of diabetes, and associated complications, are often higher in regional and remote areas so we are very glad this funding is targeted at areas where there is limited access to testing,” he said. “The thing about diabetes-related blindness is that it can be prevented in up to 98% of cases. Better testing and early detection means more people get early treatment and avoid going blind.” “This averts the personal tragedy of blindness as well as delivering huge, long-term savings to the health system. Diabetes is the single biggest challenge confronting the Australian health system costing around $14.6 billion every year and every dollar we invest in reducing that cost is money well spent.” The testing will involve using non-mydriatic retinal cameras to take retinal photographs that can then be examined for signs of diabetic retinopathy.