Approximately 630,000 Australians with diabetes are at risk of vision loss or blindness because they aren't having their eyes checked regularly.
Diabetes Australia CEO Professor Greg Johnson said diabetes was a leading cause of preventable blindness in working age Australians, yet with regular eye checks, most vision loss was preventable.
He urged people with diabetes to sign up to KeepSight, a national diabetes eye screening program designed to make it easier for people to remember to have regular eye checks. "Every person with diabetes is at risk of eye damage and vision loss because diabetes can damage blood vessels in the eye."
"1.3 million Australians have diabetes and we think that about half, or around 630,000 people, aren't getting their eyes checked and this means eye damage is often identified too late when treatment is less effective and more costly.
"Diabetes is a complex condition and people with diabetes need to have a range of regular health checks and tests to manage their condition. It can be time-consuming and sometimes things get overlooked.
"Many people with diabetes are not even aware they need to have their eyes checked. Often there are no signs or symptoms of eye damage and it is only picked up when people get their eyes checked for reading or when substantial damage has occurred.
"Once people are registered with KeepSight they'll receive reminders and prompts to have regular diabetes eye checks. People are free to choose their eye care providers and the cost of these eye checks is usually funded by Medicare.
"If we detect problems early then people can get early treatment and damage can be prevented and people can keep their sight.
"If you have diabetes it only takes a minute to register at keepsight.org.au. Your details will be securely held by Diabetes Australia and only used to provide regular reminders and information to help you keep your sight."
The new KeepSight program has widespread support from leading diabetes and eye health groups and is funded by the Australian Government, Spescavers, Bayer and Novartis. Program partners include Diabetes Australia, Vision 2020 Australia, Centre for Eye Research Australia and Oculo.
Associate Professor Peter van Wijngaarden, deputy director of the Centre for Eye Research Australia, said KeepSight was the missing link in Australia's diabetes health system. "We have some of the world's best eye care providers and an excellent health service, but people are still slipping through the cracks," he said.
"The thinking behind KeepSight is already proven. The United Kingdom implemented a similar program and for the first time in 50 years, diabetes is no longer the leading cause of blindness in working age adults there. We want to achieve that in Australia."
How does it work?
The concept of KeepSight is simple - increase the number of people with diabetes having regular diabetes eye checks, to prevent diabetes-related vision loss.
To do this, all Australians with diabetes are encouraged to register with KeepSight - it's free and helps people know when they need a diabetes eye check and how to make an appointment with an eye care professional of their choice for a Medicare-funded diabetes eye test.
People registered with KeepSight will receive important eye health information and alerts when it's time to have an eye check. Health professionals are also urged to register with the program to help their patients.