Healthy Eyes, Healthy You: The State of Eye Health In Australia

Hello everyone. You’re listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host for today, Tabetha Moreto. Our guest today is Ben Ashby, the Head of
Optometry at Specsavers. Today, we’re going to talk about why Australians
should prioritize their eye health and also Ben is going to talk about some research that
its organization has done regarding eye health. Without any further ado, welcome to the show,
Ben. It’s so nice to have you here. Thank you very much for having me. My pleasure. So Ben, please tell the audience more about
yourself and your organization. My role is to support Specsavers optometrists
to improve and protect the sight of all Australians. So this means correcting vision either with
glasses or contact lenses and detecting avoidable causes of blindness so that treatment can
be commenced early. That’s very fascinating to know. Can you tell us why so many Australians are
failing to undergo eye test every two years? Yes. There’s a number of reasons. I think number one certainly the research
supports this awareness. Many people think that if they’re not experiencing
a problem then there isn’t a problem with their eyes. But we know that most eye diseases don’t notice
them in the early stages and this is the time when it’s most important to actually start
treatment so that hopefully it never goes on to affect your vision. What kind of eye conditions are not detectable
in the early stages? Well, we can detect them in early stages but
they don’t have any symptoms, unfortunately. The big ones there, we’re talking about glaucoma
macular degeneration and diabetic eye disease and of these conditions quite sadly, there
are 300,000 Australians that have lost vision to them and yet these are conditions that
if they’re picked up early, treatment probably could have saved their sights. Yes, that sounds very sad indeed. What is the reason why more and more Australians
are getting this kind of eye diseases? Certainly, aging population is a significantly
contribute to that. These are diseases that affect you more as
you’re getting older which is a worrying element of this research that we’ve just committed
because we’ve found that of those, 8 over 40, 2 out of 3 are having a problem with their
sight but they’re not doing anything about it and this is putting their vision at risk. The good news though is that 90% of vision
loss is avoidable or treatable but then it gets worrying again when 50% of those people
over 40 don’t get their eyes checked regularly. And in this
age group we do notice about 25% that do have an eye disease that we could be actively working
towards preventing. I see. Can you tell us, Ben, why is it important
for Australians to make sure that they undergo eye test regularly? It’s really important to get regular eye tests
because most of them are serious and common forms of vision loss are correctable and that
we can pick them up before you have any symptoms whatsoever. So for example, glaucoma affects 300,000 Australians. Sadly, 150,000 of them aren’t diagnosed yet
and there are no symptoms in the early stages but the treatment is as simple as an eye drop
per day that is picked up and that can preserve your sight for the rest of your life. Well, it’s a good thing to know, Ben, that
these types of eye diseases can be treatable especially during the early stages. It certainly is. Yes, but we just need to make sure that more
Australians actively look after their eyes. So in Australia, we’re very good at doing
things like attending screens for cancer, … forms in our heart and we see our GP straight
away but we just don’t prioritize our eye health in the same way and yet everyone considers
their vision to be so precious but we don’t actively look after it and really we should
be getting our eyes checked at least every two years. That’s true, Ben. I agree with you. A lot of people are worried about cancer. They’re worried
about their heart health, their bowel health but people claim that their eyes are the most
precious part of their body but we don’t really take care of it. So why do you think people neglect to take
care of their eyes or get their eyes checked? Sometimes it’s time. Sometimes it’s cost. Sometimes it’s just that that idea that if
I had a problem I’d know about it but the research could’ve show time and time again
that picking these things up early isn’t something you can wait until you’ve actually got a symptom. You’ve got to
engage in proactively getting your eyes checked on a regular basis. Absolutely. I agree with you. What advice can you give to our listeners
regarding their eye health? First thing, if you haven’t recently had an
eye test, walk in and get your eyes checked by an optometrist. Next thing is to commit to regular eye testing
and the other really important thing is that if you have an eye condition yourself, you
need to tell your relatives about it to make sure they’re getting their eyes checked because
so many of these treatable and avoidable eye conditions have quite a strong genetic component
like up to a 50% chance of having another relative with the same condition. Fantastic advice. Thank you so much, Ben. Now, if you don’t mind, can I ask you a personal
question? Absolutely. Why are you so passionate about helping people
with eye conditions and by the way how did you get into this specific medical field,
in the first place? I’m so passionate about it because they’re
really for me couldn’t be anything more rewarding than helping people on a daily basis, to see
the world more clearly and then to actually save people from losing their sight. So I ended up in this role because I always
wanted to be a healthcare practitioner and I just ended up focusing on eyes and it’s
been an incredibly rewarding career. That’s fantastic to know that someone like
you is so passionate about helping people especially when it comes to their health. It’s such an opportunity to make a difference
out there. Yes, but before we go, can you please tell
our audience for those who want to get in contact with you, how can they do that? They can do it very easily. Specsavers is the largest provider of eye
health services in Australia. We see over 3 million patients a year. We have practices in every location across
the country where accessible, affordable, we have the latest technology and we both
fill all of our consultations. So they simply have to either go online or
call up to make an appointment at Specsavers. That’s wonderful. Thank you so much, Ben, for coming on the
show. It was fantastic having you. It was a delight to talk to you. And that was Ben Ashby, Head of Optometry
at Specsavers. If you liked this interview, transcripts and
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and iTunes. I’m Tabetha Moreto and you’re listening to
Health Professional Radio.

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