As the world grapples with the second year of the pandemic, it's been easy to forget about eye health.
However, with World Sight Day taking place Thursday, October 14, Vision 2020 Australia is asking everyone to take a pledge to look after their eyes.
Vision 2020 Australia CEO Patricia Sparrow said the latest Medicare data analysis showed the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on eye healthcare.
"Almost half a million Australians missed having an eye test over the past year and a half as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic," she said.
Between March 1 2020, and July 31 2021, there were 423,730 fewer eye tests conducted nationally than in the previous 17-month period.
This means that almost half a million Australians are at greater risk of developing an eye condition or losing sight than before the pandemic.
"Around 90 per cent of vision loss is preventable or treatable if it's identified early, and eye tests are the early warning system which could save your sight," Ms Sparrow said.
Vision 2020 is asking all Australians to take the pledge to love their eyes with three simple steps: by having an eye test as soon as possible, by not ignoring vision changes and by maintaining ongoing treatment if you have an existing eye condition.
Eye tests can be arranged directly through an optometrist without the need for a referral and are usually covered by Medicare.
Almost half a million Australians missed having an eye test over the past year and a half as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.Patricia Sparrow, Vision 2020 Australia CEO
"Optometrists in all states are permitted to provide urgent care, so people should not delay seeking treatment if they notice a change in their vision," Ms Sparrow said.
"An eye test is a simple, quick and effective way to love your eyes and protect your vision," she said.
The risk of developing an eye condition increases as people enter their 40s, while people who smoke, have diabetes, have a family history of eye disease, or are of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent are also at heightened risk of eye disease.
World Sight Day is an annual day of awareness to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment.
For more information, visit vision2020australia.org.au.