Australian Aborigines going blind at six times the rate than rest of population

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Brisbane, Sep 28(ANI): A new Australian survey has found that Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, in Queensland are going blind at a staggering six times the rate of other Australians despite the fact that they are born with better eyesight.

The survey, led by the University of Melbourne's Indigenous Eye Health Unit, was conducted from data collected from about 400 Aboriginal across Australia and Torres Strait Islander people in 30 communities.

It found that Aborigines were born with better eyesight than non-indigenous babies, however, by the time they reached adulthood they were six times more likely to be blind and three times more likely to have low vision.

It emphasized that 1.9 per cent of indigenous adults suffered from blindness, 6.2 times higher than the rest of Australia's population.

The major causes of blindness in Aboriginal adults were revealed as cataracts (32 per cent), followed by refractive error (14 per cent), optic atrophy (14 per cent), trachoma (nine per cent) and diabetic eye disease (nine per cent).

"It is a national disgrace that more than 94 per cent of the vision loss associated with these eye diseases is preventable and treatable," quoted Professor Hugh Taylor, survey's lead researcher, as saying.

"We have good eye care services in Australia, we have a good health system, we shouldn't have that sort of unmet need here," he added.

One of the main reasons for Aboriginal adults suffering such problems was related to the dearth of proper health care in remote communities.

Prof Taylor further said current eye health services would be assessed to develop a plan to deliver better care to the community, as the survey unveiled that 35 per cent of Aboriginal adults had never had their eyes checked.

"We know there is a great shortage of the number of ophthalmologists and optometrists in these remote communities," Prof Taylor said.

"The best systems for delivering eye care have good coordination between visiting optometrists and visiting ophthalmologists working together as a team," he added. (ANI)

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