Having healthy eyes is important for everyday life; they are needed to read and study, play sports, drive, and work . There are a number of problems that can affect the health of the eye . The most common conditions are:
Eye problems are associated with: getting older, smoking, injuries, exposure to ultra-violet (UV) light from the sun, and not eating enough healthy food . Eye health problems can result in low vision (not being able to see properly). This can be corrected with glasses, contact lenses or eye surgery. Eye health problems can result in impaired eyesight and blindness.
Many Indigenous people do not have access to specialised eye health services, including optometrists and ophthalmologists (specialist eye doctors) . As a result, Indigenous people are more likely than non-Indigenous people to suffer from poor eye health that is preventable. In the 2004-2005 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS), eye and/or sight problems were reported by almost one-third of Indigenous people .
The 2008 National Indigenous Eye Health Survey (NIEHS) found that low vision was nearly three times more common for Indigenous adults than for other Australian adults . Overall, 3% of Indigenous adults suffered vision loss caused by cataracts, but only 65% of Indigenous people who needed cataract surgery received it. Refractive error caused one-half of vision loss in both adults and children.
Diabetes, a major problem for Indigenous people, can cause eye disease and loss of vision. The 2008 NIEHS found that only one-in-five Indigenous people with diabetes had had an eye examination within the last year, and just over one-in-ten had sight problems .
According to the 2008 NIEHS, blindness was six times more common for Indigenous adults than for total population adults . The main causes of blindness for Indigenous adults were:
For Indigenous children, the 2008 NIEHS found they had better vision than other children in Australia, especially in remote areas . There were similar findings in the Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey (WAACHS) . The 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) found that almost one-in-ten Indigenous children had an eye or sight problem