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Healthy eyes are important for everyday life; they are needed to read and study, play sports, drive, and work . A number of problems can affect the health of the eye . The most common conditions are :
Eye health is affected by getting older, smoking, injuries, exposure to ultra-violet (UV) light from the sun, and not eating enough healthy food . Eye problems can result in low vision (not being able to see properly) which can be improved with glasses, contact lenses or eye surgery . Eye problems can also result in impaired eyesight and blindness.
The 2008 National Indigenous eye health survey (NIEHS) found :
Refractive error was the most common cause of low vision and caused one-half of vision loss in both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults and children . Cataract was the leading cause of blindness for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in 2008.
Diabetes, a major problem for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, can cause eye disease (diabetic retinopathy) and loss of vision . Blinding diabetic retinopathy (damage to the small blood vessels in the back of the eye) was 30 times more common among Indigenous adults than non-Indigenous adults in the 2008 NIEHS. Only one-in-five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with diabetes had had an eye examination within the previous year .
Trachoma still occurs in some remote areas of NT, WA and SA. The overall levels of trachoma in these communities have reduced from 14% in 2009 to 4% in 2014. It has been suggested that targeted screening, treatment and health promotion programs have contributed to the decrease of trachoma.
Most eye problems are preventable and treatable , however, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people do not have access to specialised eye health services from providers such as optometrists and ophthalmologists (specialist eye doctors) . As a result, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely than non-Indigenous people to have poor eye health that is preventable.