As we start another year, we speak to professionals across the eye health industry to understand the challenges, opportunities, trends and priorities for the year ahead.

Taryn Black, Program Director, KeepSight:

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted us all, but people with diabetes have been especially hard hit.

Research shows people with diabetes are more likely to be hospitalised for their diabetes after contracting COVID-19. We’ve also seen that COVID-19 may induce new-onset diabetes in both children and adults.

There is ongoing concern about the pandemic’s long-term impacts. Delays in screening, diagnosis and seeking care may increase the risk of complications for people living with diabetes, including diabetes-related vision loss.

A recent analysis of Medicare Benefits Scheme data has found that COVID-19 has led to a significant decline in people with diabetes having essential health checks. At Diabetes Australia, we help people with diabetes reduce their risk of diabetes-related complications by taking them through a checklist of regular health checks, including optometrist visits, called an Annual Cycle of Care. The number of people completing Annual Cycle of Care diabetes health checks has fallen by 45% from pre-pandemic levels.

During COVID-19, people have been taking extra precautions to protect themselves and their communities from the virus. Australia has done an extraordinary job of limiting deaths.

However, 2022 is the time for people with diabetes to re-engage with their diabetes healthcare teams if they have not been having routine checks over the past two years.

This includes eye checks.

Regular eye checks can pick up potential issues early, when treatment can be more effective. Early detection saves sight.

Diabetes Australia’s KeepSight program complements existing optometry practice recall programs to help people with diabetes remember when their eye checks are due.

There is a lot to remember when you have diabetes and regular reminders from a trusted source means one less thing to keep on top of. Once people are registered, reminders are set according to recall periods set by the eye care provider.

Through working together, Diabetes Australia and Specsavers hope to dramatically reduce the rates of avoidable diabetes-related vison loss in Australia.