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Diabetes Blinds New Zealanders Unnecessarily


Diabetes Blinds New Zealanders Unnecessarily

The New Zealand Save Sight Society, a group of Eye Specialists and Optometrists, is running a campaign to encourage people with diabetes to have their eyes checked.

Diabetes is the commonest preventable cause of blindness in people aged 20 to 60. In most people this can be prevented by regular eye checks. Free eye checks are available throughout New Zealand as part of the ‘Get Checked’ campaign. General Practitioners can arrange these eye tests, which normally involves taking special photographs of the back of the eye.

In New Zealand there are 115,000 people with known diabetes. It is estimated there are at least that number again with diabetes, but in whom it has not yet been diagnosed. Health practitioners are alarmed that the prevalence of diabetes is predicted to double over the next 20 years. Diabetes is 3 times more common in Maori and Pacific peoples compared to the European population.

One in eight patients with diabetes in New Zealand will lose some sight.
In most cases this loss of vision can be prevented by better control of the diabetes with diet, physical activity and medical treatment, regular eye checks, and if necessary laser treatment
The laser treatment [see attachment] is a relatively simple outpatient procedure usually done by using local anaesthetic drops and shining a laser light onto the retina, (which is the light sensitive film at the back of the eye).

Currently only 60% of people with diabetes go to their General Practitioner to have a free eye examination.
“Diabetes is becoming a number one health problem in New Zealand and if left untreated can be disastrous for the patient. Blindness is just one of the tragic effects of this disease and it can be prevented,” says Dr Paul Herrick, chair of The Save Sight Society.

Save Sight has produced a poster [attached] showing what a devastating effect untreated diabetic eye disease can have on vision.

The Save Sight Society wishes to thank, The Royal NZ College of General Practitioners, the NZ Association of Optometrists, the Pharmacy Guild of NZ and Diabetes NZ for distributing this poster


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