Marking the launch of the inaugural Macula Month (May), study results released today by Macular Disease Foundation Australia highlight the need for Australians, particularly those living with diabetes, to be more aware of macular disease and how to minimise the risk. Health professionals have a vital role to play in raising awareness about macular health and encouraging risk minimisation.
Despite the fact that macular disease is the leading cause of blindness in Australia, a YouGov Galaxy study, commissioned by Macular Disease Foundation Australia, indicates that 91 per cent of Australians are unsure or unaware of the function of the macula.1
The study’s findings relating to one of the most common diseases affecting the macula, diabetic eye disease, particularly stands out. While diabetic eye disease is the leading cause of preventable blindness in working-aged Australians, the study shows that 64 per cent of those diagnosed with diabetes are unaware that the eyes can be affected by diabetes.
Findings From Awareness Study Concerning
Dee Hopkins, Chief Executive Officer of Macular Disease Foundation Australia, said the findings of this study are concerning.
a visit to the optometrist or ophthalmologist could be the first time a health professional notices the signs of type 2 diabetetes
Ms. Hopkins said, “With the prevalence of diabetes in Australia expected to grow significantly, ensuring that diabetic eye disease is prevented has never been more vital. As the national peak body for macular disease in Australia, we are working to change the behaviour of those at risk of diabetic eye disease, as we have done with great success for people with or at risk of age-related macular degeneration –to ultimately save sight.
“Everyone with diabetes is at risk of developing vision loss from diabetic retinopathy.2 This is why we are encouraging anyone with diabetes to have their eyes tested every two years. If diabetic retinopathy has been detected, we encourage the individual to have their eyes checked at least once a year.”
Professor Greg Johnson, CEO of Diabetes Australia agrees that the study findings are concerning, particularly given the prevalence of diabetes in Australia.
“Around 1.7 million Australians are currently living with diabetes. Approximately 1.2 million know they have the disease, while an estimated 500,000 are living with undiagnosed diabetes.3 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are up to four times more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to have diabetes or pre-diabetes.4
“Of the 1.2 million people who have been diagnosed, more than 300,000 (between 25 and 35 per cent) have some degree of diabetic retinopathy, and about 65,000 have progressed to sight-threatening eye disease.5,6
“It is also important for people at risk of type 2 diabetes to get their eyes checked. For some people, a visit to the optometrist or ophthalmologist could be the first time a health professional notices the signs of type 2 diabetes,” says Professor Johnson.
Ms. Hopkins adds, “We all have an important role to play in helping patients to recognise the risks and manage macular health. With relevant information from their health care professional, as well as help to access the right services and resources, professionals can ensure their patients have the best possible macular health plan in place.”
Education Required to Reduce Risks
While the study showed that there has been improvement in the number of people having their macula checked, when it comes to reducing the risk of macular disease, the study revealed that almost a quarter (23 per cent) of Australians aged 50 and over don’t know what to do to reduce the risk of macular disease.
“Knowledge is definitely power in the defence against macular disease, so it’s imperative that Australians learn what they can do to minimise their risk,” said Ms. Hopkins.
“During Macula Month, we want all Australians at risk to think about their macula health; learn the risk factors associated with macular disease; have a regular, comprehensive eye examination and ask about their macula.”
About Macula Month: 1 to 31 May 2018
Macula Month is an initiative of Macular Disease Foundation Australia and runs for the month of May. It is an annual campaign designed to raise awareness of macular disease, which includes age-related macular degeneration and diabetic eye disease, along with other less common diseases of the macula. Macular disease is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in Australia.
Macular Disease Foundation Australia is an excellent source of information about macular disease, support services and entitlements. If you would like to access information for a patient, or for your practice, phone 1800 111 709 or visit www.mdfoundation.com.au