Thursday, October 13, 2002, is the World Sight Day. This is a day set aside by the International Agency for Prevention of Blindness and the World Health Organisation to create awareness on avoidable blindness, visual impairments and the importance of eye care.
The theme of this year’s celebration is “Love your eyes.”
World Sight Day draws attention to a range of issues surrounding visual impairments/blindness. It is seen as one of the most important days for communication and advocacy in eye care.
World Sight Day is under the Vision 2020—The Right to Sight global initiative, whose objective is to promote a world in which nobody is needlessly blind or visually impaired.
The aims of the World Sight Day are to raise awareness of issues surrounding blindness and visual impairment; advocacy to influence or draw governments attention worldwide to participate in and donate funds to blindness prevention programs, recruitment of eye health personnel etc; to garner support for impactful vision programs and activities, and to raise awareness on the prevention of blindness.
Globally, the common causes of visual impairments are (a) Uncorrected Refractive Errors which include myopia or otherwise known as short-sightedness, hyperopia or otherwise known as long-sightedness and astigmatism. Presbyopia is an eye condition associated with vision loss due to age. Short-sightedness or myopia makes far objects look blurry, hyperopia or longsightedness makes nearby objects look blurry, and astigmatism can also make both near and far objects look distorted. Presbyopia on the other hand makes it difficult for middle-aged and older adults to see tiny prints or other objects at close range.
(b) Cataracts: this is a clouding of the natural lens of the eyes and it’s one of the causes of blindness worldwide, and a major cause of vision loss in Africa. Cataracts can occur at any age in life because of varieties of causes and can also be present at birth.
(c) Age-related Macular Degeneration: this is a disease that affects a person’s central vision. It can result in severe central vision loss. Risk factors for Age-related Macular Degeneration include being 50 and above in age, smoking, having High Blood Pressure and eating a diet in saturated fats.
(d) Glaucoma: refers to a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve. The optic nerve sends visual information from the eye to the brain and it is vital for good vision. Damages to the optic nerve are often connected to high intraocular pressures of the eyes. But some types of glaucoma can still occur with normal eye pressure hence the need for regular eye checkups. This condition may be hereditary and it’s common in adult blacks. Most times, it’s symptomless hence referred to as the silent thief of sight. Blindness from glaucoma is irreversible.
(e) Diabetic Retinopathy: is a complication of diabetes caused by high blood sugar levels damaging the back of the eye known as the retina. It can cause blindness if left undiagnosed/untreated.
(f) Corneal Opacity: refers to the eye condition arising when the cornea becomes scarred thus preventing light from passing through the cornea to the retina which may cause the cornea to appear whitish or cloudy. Cornea Opacity is mainly caused by injuries, corneal abrasion, infection or scratch
(g) Trachoma is basically a bacterial infection that affects the eyes. It’s a contagious disease caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. It spreads through contact with the eyes, eyelids and nose or throat secretions of an infected person. It is associated with poor socioeconomic conditions such as places where safe water is scarce, poor personal hygiene and environmental sanitation. Eye-seeking flies and contaminated hands, fomites or clothing transmit the bacteria between people from the nasal or ocular discharge of infected persons. Undiagnosed, untreated and even poor management of trachoma can lead to severe visual impairments and resultant blindness.
The above are just simple definitions of the common conditions/diseases that can lead to visual impairments and should not replace proper professional clinical consultations and annual regular examinations or make people result to the temptation and practice of self-medications by going to the chemist or pharmacy to buy eye medications without the doctor’s prescription and going to roadsides/market places to buy reading glasses from quacks without the Optometrist’ prescription. Please also note that there are other conditions or diseases that can cause visual impairments.
Nigerian Optometric Association, an active member of the National Eye Health Committee will be collaborating with the Ophthalmological Society of Nigeria, Nigerian Ophthalmic Nurses Association and Association of Nigerian Dispensing Opticians to mark this year’s World Sight Day.
The committee would mark the World Sight Day in conjunction with the Ministry of Transport and road transport unions across the 36 states plus the Federal Capital Territory through screening drivers and riders for ocular ailments.
This will help in reducing road traffic accidents and help in attaining Sustainable Development Goals, SDG 3 and 11 (healthy lives and sustainable cities)
Events commemorating World Sight Day across the world are mostly seminar presentations, health talks, media engagement, rallies/road walks, free eye screening and checkups, courtesy calls on government functionaries, traditional rulers, religious leaders and major stakeholders in the society amongst others.
This year’s awareness campaign is to focus global attention on vision impairments, including blindness.
Please LOVE YOUR EYES and ensure you go for a comprehensive eye examination today and regularly.
Happy World Sight Day, 2022.
- Dr Dania is of the Faculty of Public Health Optometry, Nigerian Post Graduate College of Optometrists; 08037933933