Alistair Brightman

Preserve eyesight by knowing family's history

THIS month the health focus is on eyesight.

Nearly 50% of Australians say they only have their eyes tested if they are having trouble seeing or if their eyes hurt, according to a Newspoll survey commissioned by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists as part of its annual JulEYE campaign.

JulEYE aimed to educate Australians about eye disease and eye experts involved want to make sure everyone knows about their family eye history.

Despite 75% of vision loss being preventable or treatable, many Australians are still not finding out if eye disease is part of their family history to determine if they're at risk and need to have their eyes checked.

The RANZCO would like to see eye tests become part of a family's calendar of regular medical check-ups.

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RANZCO Fellow Professor Frank Martin says: "To ensure we preserve our eyesight, Australians need to be more aware of their family's eye history.

"If you have a family history of eye disease, a medical condition that can have eye related issues such as diabetes or are over the age of 40, eye testing every two years is essential as it is the most effective way to identify problems early."

While many of us might think that eye problems are only something suffered by the elderly, this is not true says chief executive of the RANZCO Eye Foundation Jacinta Spurrett.

"Eye disease is indiscriminate and can happen at any age," she said.

"More than 200,000 Australians are currently suffering from vision loss related to eye disease and every year a further 10,000 Australians will lose part of their vision or go blind."

But check-ups can help save your sight, she emphasises.

Joining the JulEYE call to action are INXS band member and JulEYE Ambassador, Kirk Pengilly; renowned Australian legal Academic and 2011 Senior Australian of Year Professor Ron McCallum, who has been blind since birth; former director of the National Gallery of Australia, Betty Churcher AO, who suffers from macular degeneration; and one of Australia's highest-selling independent musical artists and motivational speakers, Lorin Nicholson, who is also legally blind.

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