June 21, 2005.
Most eye diseases that cause vision loss in Australia could be prevented with earlier diagnosis and treatment.
According to a report released today by the Centre for Eye Research Australia, prompt treatment could have prevented about 360,000 adults losing their vision.
"About three-quarters of eye disease in Australia is preventable or treatable," said Hugh Taylor, director of the centre and professor of ophthalmology at the University of Melbourne.
Last year more than 480,000 Australians above the age of 40 suffered some form of vision impairment and about 50,000 people were legally blind.
In Australia, most vision loss is caused by age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetes-related eye disease, glaucoma and refractive error.
According to the report, prepared by Access Economics, vision impairment and blindness cost $9.8billion last year. It estimated eye care interventions costing $190million in 2005-06 would lead to a lifetime saving of $650million.
"Glaucoma, for example, affects about 220,000 in Australia, but about half the people don't know that they have it," Professor Taylor said. "So they are not getting treatment and are losing vision and once vision is lost from glaucoma it can't be restored."
Simple measures such as encouraging all Australians, beginning with school children, to wear sunglasses could prevent exposure to ultraviolet light, one of the main risk factors for cataracts, Professor Taylor said.
"And the vision loss from diabetes is almost entirely preventable with appropriately timed treatment and good monitoring and control of the condition."
The report - funded by Eye Research Australia, a partner of Vision CRC which conducts research into eye disease and develops eyecare products - outlines a series of recommendations to reduce eye disease.
Among its suggestions is regular vision testing for high-risk groups such as the elderly, people with a family history of eye disease and those with diabetes.
Source URL: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,15691723%255E23289,00.html.
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