Poor eye health is a relatively common issue in Australia, and it is expected to be on the rise, with 800,000 Australians expected to suffer blindness or have some vision loss by 2020. Even with this rather intimidating statistic, there are always means to prevent and manage eye conditions.
Although genetic factors and ageing contribute to many instances of eye health conditions, there are also day-today practices that can help in preventing eye issues that are detailed in this blog.
The five eye issues plaguing Australians
There are five eye-related issues that are much more common in Australia than people imagine – to give readers a better idea of the symptoms and causes, Team Medprovide a brief synopsis of each one.
Cataracts are the slow blurring of vision due to a clouding of the lens inside the eye, resulting in poor vision. A cataract is typically caused by ageing, but can also be caused by long-term exposure to ultraviolet light. Although cataracts themselves are not painful, they can make sufferers sensitive to bright lights and interpret colours slightly differently.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve, resulting in a loss of vision. Currently 300,000 Australians suffer from glaucoma, with risk factors including increased pressure to the eye, obesity and migraines. If treated early glaucoma is highly preventable, although it is not often known to be an issue until some ocular damage has occurred.
Diabetic retinopathy is caused by diabetes (both Type 1 and Type 2). Affecting the small blood vessels of the retina at the back of the eye, diabetic retinopathy causes vision to become blurred or hazy. Often this eye condition has no symptoms in the early stages and damage may not be noticed until the condition is advanced.
Macular degeneration is an age-related disease that affects the central vision of sufferers. Symptoms, such as distorted vision, reading difficulties or difficulty making out faces, dark patches or empty spaces in the centre of the vision can occur very gradually or emerge very quickly depending on the situation.
Uncorrected refractive error
Refractive error is a very common eye disorder wherein eyes cannot clearly focus on images or objects. This is the principle reason why many need corrective eyeglasses, which manage either short-sightedness or long-sightedness, or needing reading glasses with age. Because refractive error is a very gradual degradation of sight, symptoms might not be noticed until an eye test occurs.
Lifestyle to prevent eye issues
There are a number of ways to mitigate or prevent eye issues that take little effort, but a lot of awareness. For those with genetic ties to eye issues, such as a propensity for diabetes or high blood pressure, or for those over the age of 65, it’s an excellent idea to undergo an eye examination as soon as possible to manage any symptoms, whether they’re present or not.
Potentially harmful lifestyles can also contribute to eye conditions – exercising more frequently, eating healthy foods, quitting smoking and wearing sunglasses when outside to protect from harmful UV light can all aid in the prevention of eye issues.
Above all, it’s important to remember that regular eye and health checks can aid in the early detection of potentially debilitating eye conditions – as many of the eye issues are not
Ways the Australian Government are addressing Eye Issues
The Australian Government have introduced several means to manage eye issues. Items have been made under the Medicare Benefits schedule that facilitate the planning and management of several chronic eye conditions, such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration. Patients deemed eligible to receive treatment for eye conditions can also be referred by their GP for up to five Medicare subsidised health services directly related to the treatment of chronic eye health conditions.
There are a number of programs in place to provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities with the healthcare they need to ensure improved eye health. Both the Visiting Optometrists Schemeand Rural Health Outreach Fundallow for populations living in remote communities the means to prevent and manage a variety of eye issues.
Interested in finding out more?
If you’re still curious about eye conditions in Australia, make sure to get in touch with the team at Team Med today – we’d love to help out!