Federal Parliamentarians get their eyes checked to mark World Diabetes Day and the “Eyes on Diabetes” campaign to prevent blindness 23 November 2016 Over 25 federal MP’s and Senators will have their eyes checked at Parliament House on 23 November using a special camera which photographs the retina to enable early detection of diabetes-related damage to the eyes. The event is co-sponsored by two Parliamentary Friends Groups – the Diabetes group co-chaired by Rowan Ramsay MP and Graham Perrett MP; and the Eye Health and Vision Care group co-chaired by Hon Amanda Rishworth MP and Dr Andrew Laming MP (who is also an eye specialist). Minister for Health Hon Sussan Ley MP will speak at the event. Diabetes Australia CEO, A/Professor Greg Johnson congratulated Minister Ley on a new Medicare initiative that will increase the number of Australians with diabetes undergoing eye examinations. “At least 165,000 Australians with diabetes have damage to their retina in their eye (retinopathy) and many develop diabetic macular oedema which is the most common cause of vision loss and is on the increase,” A/Professor Johnson said. “Diabetes is a leading cause of preventable eye damage and blindness in Australia despite the fact that we are a developed, wealthy nation.” “The great opportunity is that more systematic screening using retinal photos can detect eye damage much earlier, and early treatment is more effective in preventing vision loss and reducing the impact of diabetes on individuals and their families as well as reducing health system costs.” Vision 2020 Australia CEO Carla Northam said substantial progress could be made by utilising new technology and encouraging regular eye examinations. “One in three people with diabetes have a diabetes-related eye disease yet we know from the National Eye Health Survey that half of Indigenous Australians and a quarter of non-Indigenous Australians are not having an eye examination at the frequency recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council,” Mrs Northam said. “New mobile technology and electronic health records provide easier access to health services, particularly in rural and remote areas.” “98 per cent of severe loss of vision from diabetes can be avoided if detected early, however awareness of preventing diabetes-related eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy is low.” “Diabetes-related eye disease is often asymptomatic until it reaches an advanced state and outcomes of late treatment are usually inferior to early intervention.” A/Professor Greg Johnson called for a National Diabetes Blindness Prevention Initiative to help reduce the number of people who go blind unnecessarily. “A National Diabetes Blindness Prevention Initiative would integrate the use of retinal photography for screening and better connect the capacity in general practice, optometry and ophthalmology services in Australia with Primary Health Networks taking the lead in coordination,” he said “Lack of coordination continues to pose a major barrier.” This year for World Diabetes Day (November 14) the global campaign is “Eyes on Diabetes” highlighting the risk of diabetes-related eye disease leading to blindness. The International Diabetes Federation estimates that worldwide 415 million people have diabetes and 93 million of these have diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes that leads to blindness. Diabetes Australia is the national body for people affected by all types of diabetes and those at risk. Diabetes Australia is committed to reducing the impact of diabetes. We work in partnership with diabetes health professionals, researchers and the community to minimise the impact of diabetes. Vision 2020 Australia is part of a global initiative of the World Health Organisation and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness and represents around 50 member organisations in Australia involved in: local and global eye care; health promotion; low vision support; vision rehabilitation; eye research; professional assistance and community support.