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Focus on Diabetic Retinopathy

2022 National Diabetes Week

Focus on Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes is the forgotten epidemic of the 21st century and stands as one of the biggest ongoing challenges confronting Australia’s health system.

Diabetes remains the number one cause of blindness in Australian adults.

The disease causes a range of serious health problems in the body; some of the most serious problems are the ones that develop in the eyes, otherwise known as diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness. The worst thing about the condition is that there are often no symptoms of diabetic retinopathy during the early stages, so people don’t even know they have it.

If you have diabetes, the only way to know if you have diabetic retinopathy is to have a diabetes eye test done by your optometrist.

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetes complications fall into two groups: ‘microvascular’ and ‘macrovascular.’

Macrovascular complications involve large blood vessels; microvascular complications involve small blood vessels.

When a person has diabetes, they have high levels of glucose, or blood sugar. High blood glucose levels over long periods of time damages blood vessels. Basically, the blood vessels lose elasticity and that causes them to narrow, which restricts blood flow.

Examples of macrovascular diabetic complications would be conditions such as heart disease, stroke, or the loss of feeling in the legs, hands, or feet.

Diabetic retinopathy is an example of damage to the small blood vessels in the retina, which is located at the back of your eyes. The retina is a thin tissue that contains millions of nerve cells, which are responsible for detecting light, shapes, and colours.

In the first stage of diabetic retinopathy, (called ‘non-proliferative’), the damaged blood vessels in the retina become weak and leak. In the second, more advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy (called ‘proliferative’), the damage to the retinal blood vessels is more widespread. That causes the growth of new, abnormal blood vessels. When that happens, there is severe loss of vision, increased eye pressure leading to glaucoma and the potential for total blindness.

Risk Factors of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common complications of diabetes. Anyone with diabetes can develop it, but the risk of vision loss can go up based on the following factors:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Long periods of elevated blood glucose levels
  • The longer you have diabetes

People with diabetes are not powerless to stop the advance of diabetic retinopathy. It’s important to remember that regular eye exams and dedication to maintaining control of blood sugar and blood pressure are the best ways to prevent diabetes vision loss.

Vision Loss Prevention

Most vision loss from diabetic eye disease can be prevented if it is caught early enough.

If you or someone you care about has diabetes, don’t wait for visual diabetic retinopathy symptoms to develop to book an eye check. Often, by the time vision problems are experienced, the disease is in the advanced stages, and it will be more difficult to manage.

As a rule of thumb, people with diabetes should have their eyes checked after being diagnosed with the condition, and then at least once every two years. Often, some people will need to have eye checks more frequently. Speak with us at EyecarePlus member optometrists to determine the schedule that is right for you.

In July each year, Diabetes Australia focusses on raising public awareness about the seriousness of diabetes and to encourage all Australians to check their risk. The 2022 National Diabetes Week takes place from 10 to 16 July and focuses on the emotional health and well-being of the 1.8 million Australians living with the condition.

Too many Australians have already lost their sight as the result of diabetes. In recognition of National Diabetes Week 2022, let’s all commit to changing these statistics.


Eye care Tips for Kids

With the school year almost in the second half, it is important for children to have their eyes checked if they haven’t done already at the beginning of the year. This is because early detection means early intervention. It also prevents delays in learning and development. According to the 2020 Vision Index, commissioned by Optometry Australia, 29 per cent of Australian parents do not believe they need to take their children to the optometrist until they are older, with the average age parents believe children need an eye examination being 5-8 years. An additional 30 per cent of parents have never considered taking their children for an eye examination, despite children learning more from their vision than all other senses combined. Only 68 per cent of parents have ever taken their child for an eye examination, with the key motivators being complaints about poor vision (63 per cent) and eye injuries (45 per cent). Whilst 49 per cent of parents said they would be prompted to take their child for an eye check if their child was struggling at school.

Vision is our most important sense, children often think their vision is completely fine without knowing any better. The onus is now on the parents to take an action with their kid’s eye health.

Optometry Australia’s recommendation is to get your kids eyes tested with an optometrist before they start school and subsequently every 2 years (if everything is ok) as they progress through primary, middle, and secondary school.

At Junic eyecare, we offer a comprehensive eye check which encompasses vision check and binocular vision tests which checks how both eyes work together in seeing a unified single image. Also colour vision and checking for depth perception are all part of the detailed eye examinations tailored for our young patients.

I encourage parents to pay attention to their kid’s vision/eye health and look out for:

  • Squinting to see things,
  • Rubbing their eyes when they are not tired.
  • Head turn/Tilting their head to see better.
  • Close working distance/Holding books close to their eyes or sitting close to the television.
  • Clumsiness
  • Avoidance of near activities
  • Excessive blinking
  • Poor reading and/or writing at school
  • Eyes appear to wander or are crossed.
  • Avoiding activities conducted close to the face such as colouring and drawing.
  • Difficulty reading, such as skipping and confusing words, and holding a book very close while reading


Junic Eye Care, Junic Specialist Centre, Molonglo Health Hub, 110

Woodberry Avenue, Coombs. Visit Junic Eye Care or call (02) 6152 8585.

Why Eye Exams are important for your vision

It is easy to assume that a vision screening is a comprehensive eye exam, this is not the case.

Vision screenings are basic eye tests that help identify whether you have any problem with your vision, but they don’t test for eye diseases or the underlying causes of any vision problem. It does, however, identify whether you should get a comprehensive eye exam and should not be seen as a substitute for one. It is a series of short tests compared to a full eye exam. It is often a precursor as it identifies whether you have a vision problem rather than determining what the issue is. Vision screenings are often performed in places like schools or community centres by nurses, optometrists, and other allied health practitioners. And, sometimes by your GP. A screening would normally involve a set of simple assessments such as:

  • Testing your visual acuity using an eye chart either with “Snellen” letters or for children who can’t read yet, what is called the “Tumbling E” chart
  • Testing your pupil reactions to light
  • Eye coordination using simple charts or other basic tests
  • Stereopsis (depth perception /3D)
  • Some vision screenings also test for colour vision using charts like the Ishihara Colour Vision test

A comprehensive eye examination on the other hand is performed by an optometrist and will involve a thorough examination of all aspects of your vision. Your optometrist will then make recommendations based on your individual visual needs. This includes prescription lenses, eye exercises, eye drops or ointment, and even referral to an ophthalmologist for further treatment or surgery as required.

An eye test may vary slightly depending on your age or specific needs, but most commonly include these tests:

  • Visual Acuity:This is a test to measure the sharpness of your vision.
  • Refraction: This finds your prescription, which may or may not need to be made into glasses
  • Colour Vision:A screening test to check your colour vision to rule out any colour vision defect.
  • Tonometry: This measures the pressure of inside your eyes. This is part of Glaucoma test.
  • Cover Test:This is a simple, easy way to test if your eyes work well together.
  • Ocular Motility or Eye Movements:This determines how well your eyes can follow a moving object as well as fixate on different targets. Issues with eye movement can cause eye strain and lead to difficulties in reading.
  • Slit Lamp Exam:This is a specific test your optometrist uses to examine the structure of your eye under high magnification. This helps detect a wide range of eye conditions and diseases including cataract, macular degeneration, corneal ulcers, and diabetic retinopathy.
  • Retinal Photography: Many optometrists today use high resolution digital cameras to take images of the back of your eye to be able to look at changes over time and as a good record of the state of your retina.

These are the most common tests performed during a comprehensive eye exams but there are more which covers a wide spectrum of potential eye conditions.

You can get an eye exam with an optometrist at Junic Eyecare Plus Coombs or ophthalmologist clinic. It is important to book an appointment first to make sure we can accommodate you.

At the eye exam, you can expect the optometrist to take a comprehensive medical history to figure out what they should be looking out for. These questions can range from your family history, past and present medical issues, medications you might be on, injuries, and other factors. It is essential to be as forthcoming and thorough as possible with your answers to ensure that the test covers all likely possibilities.

Your health through the eyes of the optometrist

What Do my eyes have to do with my overall health????

Many people do not realize an eye exam is not just determining your prescription for glasses, but it’s a wellness check of your overall health. During that awkward silence, when the eye doctor is invading your personal space with his bright light, he is examining structures of the eye that can show changes related to systemic health conditions and diseases. In some cases, an eye exam can save your life!

Conditions An Eye Exam Can Detect

There are many serious health conditions that are often first detected during an eye examination. Here are a few things that your optometrist might find:

High blood pressure

The blood vessels in the back of the eye are often a predictor of how the rest of the blood vessels in the body are doing. Narrowing of the ocular arteries can often signal high blood pressure and can give the doctor insight about a future heart disease. Some studies show that high blood pressure can increase the pressure inside the eyeball. This increased eye pressure can lead to glaucoma, causing loss of peripheral vision if left untreated.

High cholesterol

During your eye examination, the optometrist would examine your cornea which the clear front surface of the eye. Presence of a hazy white or grey ring called arcus detected in patients under 60 years of age could indicate high cholesterol. Therefore, requiring a yearly cholesterol blood test with your Gp. Cholesterol deposits can also make their way to the retinal vessels and cause a blockage, which can lead to vision loss. Cholesterol in the eye can even be an early detector for someone at risk for a life-threatening stroke!


Did you know one of the first clue to a diabetes type 2 diagnosis is fluctuating vision and small bleeds within the vessels of your eye? A Haemoglobin A1c blood test can be ordered to confirm the increased sugar levels. If your optometrist sees these changes early, he can recommend exercise and diet changes to prevent the condition from worsening.

Autoimmune diseases

Most of the times, autoimmune disease related eye issues would occur first before prompting a diagnosis. Some of these eye issues your optometrist can detect includes red eyes from rheumatoid arthritis, dry eyes from Sjogren syndrome. Multiple Sclerosis can cause missing parts of vision. Graves’ disease can cause double vision. Ankylosing spondylitis can cause light sensitivity and recurring inflammation, called uveitis

Schedule an Eye Exam Today

A comprehensive eye exam is so much more than just telling you if you need glasses or not. It provides a view into your body and overall health.

Book in today for a comprehensive eye exam at JUNIC EYECARE PLUS COOMBS. Get your eye examination, for your overall wellbeing!!!