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  • Workforce hit hard by diabetic eye disease

    Author: AAP

Diabetics are being urged to have regular eye checks, as a new report shows the huge cost to Australia of diabetic eye disease.

Experts are calling for urgent action on diabetic eye disease, as a new report estimates it will cost Australia $2.07 billion in indirect economic costs in 2015.

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The report says Diabetic Macular Oedema (DME), a leading cause of blindness for working-age Australians, is set to have an even greater impact on workforce participation and productivity in the future.

DME can result in people having significant difficulties in reading, seeing faces, and fully taking part in other activities requiring acute central vision.

The Deloitte Access Economics report estimated the indirect financial and wellbeing costs this year would be $2.07 billion, with about $570 million relating to productivity costs.
Report author Lynne Pezzullo said DME can stop people from working at full capacity or from working at all.

Most of the estimated $624.30 million indirect costs would come from lower workforce participation, absenteeism and an estimated 218 premature and preventable deaths, she said.
The report estimates that in 2015, 72,000 Australians with diabetes will have DME, with about three in five experiencing poor sight.

By 2030, this is expected to increase to 102,000 people.

Julie Heraghty, CEO of Macular Disease Foundation Australia, said many Australians with diabetes don't know they are at risk of blindness.

Many didn't have regular eye examinations, despite early detection and timely treatment being able to prevent vision loss.

Professor Greg Johnson, CEO of Diabetes Australia, said much of the problem was preventable and called for a more co-ordinated, national approach to eye checks for people with diabetes.

David McBurney, from Sydney, told AAP he was diagnosed with diabetes five years ago, after ignoring his dramatic weight loss and diminishing eyesight.

He had to give up working with a band and with Vision Australia, where he was in charge of their gardens and taught blind people how to have their own gardens.

"I had to have numerous operations to save my sight," he said.

His undiagnosed diabetes had led to two cataracts and damage at the back of his eye, which now requires ongoing treatment.

"I was such an extreme case, hopefully nobody could be as stupid as me when the warning signs are there."


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