As the population in Australia ages, the number of people who are blind or have vision loss is expected to be over 800,000 by 2020.
The good news is around 90 per cent of vision loss is preventable or treatable.
Around 80 per cent of vision loss in Australia is caused by five conditions, all of which become more common as we get older (in alphabetical order):
- age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
- diabetic retinopathy
- refractive error
Many conditions do not initially cause any noticeable problems and therefore people often are unaware there is an issue with the health of their eyes.
Regular eye tests with an eye health professional are essential for the early detection of eye disease.
Half of the people with glaucoma in Australia do not know they have the disease.
This is often also the case with diabetic retinopathy, with many people unaware of the condition until it is in the later stages.
Eye tests can be booked by contacting your local optometrist directly.
You can also talk to your GP who will be able to redirect you to a local optometrist or refer you to an ophthalmologist if required.
Medicare covers the cost of most optometry services.
This includes most of the cost of a standard eye test with an optometrist: every three years for people aged 64 years and under, without new symptoms; every year for people who are aged 65 and over, without new symptoms.
Medicare may also cover more frequent eye tests if they are clinically necessary.
In most cases, if you have new symptoms that have developed since your last test, you can be seen under Medicare. Some less common and/or specific tests may attract a fee.
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Vision loss can impact sight in different ways (affecting colours, lighting, shapes etc). Vision impaired’ or ‘partially sighted’ are common terms.
Only a few people have no sight at all. More commonly, people will have a small patch of vision or are able to determine light and shadows.
For more information visit www.visioninitiative.org.au.