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Eye Checks Part of Diabetes Management

Two Media releases from:
The Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind

Eye Checks Part of Diabetes Management Essential to Keep Eyesight

The Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind (RNZFB) is encouraging all people with diabetes to have regular eye checks.

"Regular eye checks are essential for people with diabetes if they want to retain their eyesight," says Chris Inglis, Divisional Manager of the Blindness Awareness and Prevention division at the RNZFB.

"So the Foundation is encouraging all people with diabetes in New Zealand to make an appointment with an eye specialist," says Ms Inglis.

This advice is supported by Associate Professor, Gillian Clover, who is a medical retinal specialist.

"If you have diabetes it is vital that you have your eyes checked for diabetic eye disease every 1-2 years, even though you may be seeing well," says Dr. Clover.

Around one third of the 115,000 New Zealanders with diagnosed diabetes have developed diabetic retinopathy (loss of sight), which is largely preventable.

Yearly eye checks have become habitual for Barbara Winter, who works at the Foundation for the Blind and has diabetes.

"Working at the Foundation is a daily reminder to me of how important it is to look after my eyesight," says Barbara.

"Losing your eyesight is definitely not worth the risk," warns Barbara, who has had her eyes checked annually for the last 18 years to prevent against diabetic retinopathy.

There's more to maintaining healthy eyes, than just regular eye checks however.

"It's also essential to lead a healthy lifestyle," says Dr. Clover.

"Balance is the key, with regular physical activity, eating a diet that is low in fat and sugar and maintaining a healthy weight."

A new Ministry of Health initiative this year means people with diabetes are now entitled to one free doctor's visit each year, who in turn can make a free referral to an eye specialist if necessary.

The Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind (RNZFB) is working closely with Diabetes New Zealand and the Save Sight Society to prevent the incidence of diabetes and diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetes Awareness week runs from November 20 to 26.

ENDS

Unmanaged Diabetes May Cause Thousands to Go Blind

Without careful management, thousands of people with diabetes in New Zealand are at risk of permanently losing their eyesight, warns Chris Inglis, Manager of the Blindness Awareness and Prevention division at the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind (RNZFB).

"Blindness is a common complication of diabetes, and Diabetes New Zealand research published this year shows it is the greatest fear amongst those with diabetes," says Ms Inglis.

Unless diabetes is carefully managed, people with diabetes are at risk of losing their sight through diabetic retinopathy, a disease that affects the small blood vessels in the retina, leading to loss of vision and in extreme cases, total blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy is a result of very high blood sugar. Around one third of the 115,000 New Zealanders with diagnosed diabetes have lost some of their vision because of mismanagement of their diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy is also the most common cause of sight loss in Maori and Pacific Island peoples.

The RNZFB's Blindness Awareness and Prevention division is concerned about the rising incidence of diabetes and diabetic retinopathy and is working closely with Diabetes New Zealand to raise awareness of the issues in its upcoming Diabetes Awareness Week.

"The number of people being diagnosed with diabetes in this country is due to increase by 36 per cent in the next twenty years, "says Ms Inglis.

"To maintain healthy eyesight, people with diabetes need to manage their condition carefully. Prevention is definitely the best cure, so getting regular eye checks is essential," says Ms Inglis.

The RNZFB currently receives no Government funding for its work to prevent diabetic retinopathy. All work is funded by the generous donations made by New Zealanders.

Diabetes Awareness week runs from November 20 to 26.

ENDS

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