Ending preventable blindness: KeepSight helps people with diabetes see a better future 8 October 2020 World Vision Day 2020 provides a timely reminder for all Australians, particularly people with diabetes, to check their eye health. “The theme for this year’s World Sight Day is Hope in Sight and it’s all about doing what we can to end preventable blindness,” said Professor Greg Johnson, CEO of Diabetes Australia. “That’s why we are pleased that the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists has renewed its commitment to supporting KeepSight by making the program a key focus of World Sight Day. “Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in working age Australians, but we can change this.” “Diabetes is a complex condition and people with diabetes need to have many regular health checks to manage their condition. It can be time-consuming and sometimes eye examinations get overlooked.” According to Professor Nitin Verma, incoming President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists, there is a real risk of visual impairment from undetected and untreated diabetes-related eye disease. “If you have diabetes, it is likely that at some time in your life, you could develop complications in your eyes,” said Professor Verma, “With regular diabetes eye checks, early detection and prompt treatment, nearly all diabetes-related blindness can be prevented” Diabetes and vision loss Diabetes can affect the eyes in many ways. Intermittent blurring of vision could be an initial symptom of the disease. Diabetes can also cause longer term vision loss from diabetes-related retinopathy and diabetes-related macular edema, which result from damage to the very small blood vessels in the retina (which is a layer at the back of the eye). If you notice any changes in your vision, contact your doctor. Some symptoms of diabetes-related retinopathy include: Blurred, distorted or patchy vision that cannot be corrected with prescription glassesProblems with balance, reading, watching television and recognising peopleBeing overly sensitive to glareDifficulty seeing at night. The problem is that in the early stages of diabetes-related retinopathy there may be no symptoms at all and the disease may not be diagnosed until it is advanced. “Initially your doctor may test your eyes and often refer you to an optometrist or an ophthalmologist,” said Professor Verma. KeepSight can help “Great strides have been made in the detection and treatment of diabetes-related eye disease. There are many new drugs, lasers and surgical techniques that used individually or in combination can produce miraculous results in patients with diabetes-related eye disease”, said Professor Verma. “Sixteen years ago, we could never have dreamt of such “miracles”. Like all interventions, they work best in early disease. The basic rule: EARLY DIAGNOSIS, PROMPT THERAPY leads to GOOD RESULTS could never be more appropriate than in this situation. “If the damage is detected before sight is affected, treatment can prevent vision loss. When the vision has already been lost, treatment is more complicated. Even with the new drugs and surgical treatments, it could take considerably more time to restore the vision and, in some cases, only stop it from getting worse,” added Professor Verma. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists has guidelines for screening and treatment which are revised every few years and area being used in regular practice. “To prevent blindness from diabetes, there is a pressing need for a national program for the early detection of diabetes-related eye disease. All of us need to work together and with the Government to make this possible,” said Professor Verma. Initiatives to remind people with diabetes to have timely eye examinations already exist. The KeepSight program provides electronic alerts and reminders to help people with diabetes remember their diabetes eye checks. KeepSight can also help them find an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Through timely reminders, KeepSight will be able to increase the numbers of people with diabetes accessing eye checks. The aim is to ensure every person with diabetes gets timely and appropriate eye examinations. That is the real key to preventing avoidable vision loss. So far, more than 100,000 people with diabetes have signed up to KeepSight. Your optometrist or GP can help you register for KeepSight, or you can register online at keepsight.org.au. About KeepSight program The KeepSight program, which is run by Diabetes Australia in partnership with Vision 2020 Australia, Centre for Eye Research Australia and Oculo, has been co-funded by the Australian Government, Specsavers, Bayer, Novartis and Mylan. The program is supported by leading diabetes and eye health groups including the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists, Orthoptics Australia, Optometry Australia, the Australian Diabetes Society and the Australian Diabetes Educators Association.