Will your eyesight last as long as you do?

Dr Ben Ashby explains what you must do to maintain your eye health.

Will your eyesight last?

In the first of a two-part series on eye health, YourLifeChoices reveals why early and frequent eye tests can detect early signs of potentially sight-threatening eye conditions.

In a recent initiative, Specsavers has partnered with the Australian Government and Diabetes Australia to promote awareness of the link between eye health and diabetes, and the need for more screening.

Dr Ben Ashby, head of optometry at Specsavers, responds to the top 10 eye health concerns for retirees. In this, the first of two articles, he focuses on eye checks – what they can reveal and what this might mean for your general health.

YourLifeChoices: What is the link between diabetes and eye health, and why should we care?

Dr Ashby: Diabetes affects eight per cent of the Australian population. Type 2 diabetes is more prevalent and more likely to develop as you age than type 1.

The bad news is that if you have diabetes, your chance of being diagnosed with diabetic eye disease increases as you age and the longer you have diabetes, the greater the chance that your eyesight will deteriorate. The good news is that individuals can do a lot to minimise the effects of diabetes, if diagnosed. Early diagnosis is key to maintaining healthy eyesight.

How do you avoid this diagnosis, or ensure early detection?
Your GP is a great ally. He or she can work with you to control your blood glucose level or refer you to an endocrinologist, if necessary.

Regular eye checks are important as most diabetic changes are visible to an optometrist.

And treatment for diabetes can benefit all other ‘body parts’. For instance, if there is a problem with your eyes, your kidneys may also be affected.


What are the earliest warning signs?
One of the earliest could be that you experience good days, then bad days, in relation to your eyesight, as it should not vary in this way. Also, changes in your near and far vision – this means your eyesight deterioration may be advanced, so you need to have this checked.

Other common signs of eye troubles are:

  • vision when driving – if you find yourself moving closer to the windscreen to see
  • reading – if you find yourself holding the text further away from your eyes
  • soreness – if your eyes are frequently sore at the end of the day.

How often should you have your eyes checked?
For the general population, until age 65, every two years, but you may need an annual check if you have glaucoma, macular degeneration or cataracts.

Once you’re over 65,annual check-ups are a good idea. Diabetics should have an eye test as soon as they’re diagnosed, and then as advised. There will be a low frequency of check-ups if you are not at risk of eye damage. If you are considered at risk, then every year; and if at higher risk, every three months.


Are eye tests expensive?
No, they are covered by Medicare, so the test should be bulk-billed, with no out-of-pocket charges attached.


What is digital retina photography?
This is offered by many optometrists and is available with a standard bulk bill health check. It is a great record that can pick up subtle changes in your eyesight over time. Depending on the patient, it takes between 20 and 40 minutes.

Do you have regular eye checks? If not, why not? Are you aware that an eye check can give an early warning of other health problems?


    Health disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.


    To make a comment, please register or login

    29th Nov 2018
    Good article and good advice. Just to add another warning sign, 'floaters', those little dark wriggly's or spots that dash across your vision. I left this problem a bit too late and had to have surgery for severely detached retina. Having regular checkups would have saved me this trauma.
    Old Geezer
    29th Nov 2018
    No unfortunately not. What happens is that you will get flashes in your eye for a day or two as the back of your eye detaches. You will then see floaties in your eye which will annoy you. Get your eyes checked out as soon as those flashes happen. Good chance everything will be OK as it's normal aging.
    29th Nov 2018
    Kaye: annual eye checks may be free but somebody is paying for them! I find it annoying when all the 'free' things we receive are promoted because they are free.
    We deal with Specsavers as well but an annual eye check appears to be a marketing gimmick to sell you the next set of glasses. I opted out of that a few years back.
    My only issue with eyes is that they are deteriorating but it appears to be a weakening of the muscles rather than a degenerative problem. So far I use reading glasses but I am seriously thinking of eye surgery down the track as the doctor who lives near us did this a few years ago and does not wear glasses any more.
    Old Geezer
    29th Nov 2018
    Mick you can get you eyes checked and just ask for a prescription for glasses. However make sure all measurements are on that prescription as they leave things out. You can also ask for a glasses quote and say no to. That's what we do.

    If you get artificial lens then you may not need to use glasses.
    29th Nov 2018
    Thanks. I was aware on some of that but did not know they could leave out any pertinent details.
    Karl Marx
    29th Nov 2018
    My sisters & brother in law have had lasik surgery & no longer wear glasses. I'm currently looking into it in Thailand as it's so much cheaper at least 1/2 the cost or more
    29th Nov 2018
    Very interesting. I hear Thailand was a hit and miss place where one could get cheap surgery but with a risk of major, even life threatening, complications. Not sure if that is isolated or common and likely the local surgeons would be trying to talk down anybody doing this.
    I guess the statistics and chats would put the industry in Thailand into a fairer perspective. Eyes is something you do not want to get wrong. Ever.
    Karl Marx
    29th Nov 2018
    Agree Mick, that's why I am still investigating it & reading many blogs etc. Upto now I haven't read one thread where it's gone pear shaped & most give only positive feedback.
    I am currently in Thailand for long stay so am also investigating if my international medical insurance covers it or part of. By the way my international medical cover costs far less than Oz & without all the hundreds of restrictions. It's not travel insurance either so don't get the 2 mixed & no I don't have medical insurance in Oz as it's to expensive & restrictive.
    Thailand also has world class private hospitals & medical care as well as public & many people from around the world come to Thailand for medical treatment including lasik surgery & dental care.
    29th Nov 2018
    If you do the deed you might want to send me a personal account 1984. I'm not yet ready but give it another 5 years and I'll be a definite. Not even a carrot a day will change that.....
    Karl Marx
    29th Nov 2018
    no problem will somehow post so everyone will have the information.
    29th Nov 2018
    In Victoria go to the College of Optometry which also has Links to Optician Stores( This is where Opticians train) All services are FREE and they have the latest equipment! 6 months supply of Contact Lens(Customized) $330 ,at the College $58.Glasses $550 at the College $98.
    Glasses don't have Plastic Lens due to my Script!
    29th Nov 2018
    Lassik Surgery DOESN'T Last!
    Karl Marx
    29th Nov 2018
    both my sisters had it done 15 or more years ago, still don't wear glasses. may depend on the individual. 15 years of not buying on the average 1 pr of glasses a year adds up plus the added convenience of not wearing glasses.
    Wearing glasses to me is a right pain & I only need them for close work.

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