This year, the international community celebrates World Sight Day on the 10th of October. On this day we are called to closely examine issues related to eye health, and what we can do to preserve the vision of people here in Trinidad and Tobago.
Worldwide, from an estimated global population of 7.3 billion:
- 36 million people are blind
- 217 million people have moderate – to – severe impairment of distance vision
- 1 billion people have impairment of near vision
Of these, 65 million people are visually impaired due to untreated cataracts; and 124 million people have uncorrected refractive errors, which include:
- Myopia (near-sightedness… inability to see objects at a distance clearly)
- Hypermetropia (far-sightedness… inability to see close-up objects clearly)
- Astigmatism (distorted vision due to an irregularly shaped cornea, the clear front part of the eyeball)
- Presbyopia (loss of the ability to switch focus from distant objects to near objects)
This essentially means that more than 75% of vision impairment worldwide is treatable, either with glasses/contact lenses, or cataract surgery!
Closer to home, statistics from the Caribbean reflect this, with the leading causes of vision impairment being uncorrected refractive errors and cataracts, followed by AMD (age-related macular degeneration), glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy.
Here in Trinidad and Tobago, 2015 statistics revealed that approximately 26,000 of our population have mild vision impairment, over 27,000 have moderate-to-severe vision impairment, and around 5,500 are blind! Clearly more must be done to ensure that these numbers decrease, and NOT increase. And that starts with you!
When was the last time you had an examination of your eyes? Or your family? Or your friends? The first, and most important steps towards protecting your vision is scheduling an eye exam, which should be done at least every 2 years. This can be done by:
- a GP / a doctor at your local health centre
- an optometrist
- an ophthalmologist (an eye specialist doctor)
Furthermore, make efforts to encourage others in your community to have an eye examination, especially school-aged children (particularly those of a younger age), the elderly, and diabetics.
Other important measures to protect your vision include:
- Control of chronic diseases, such as diabetes mellitus and hypertension, which can both impair vision
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet, especially with foods rich in antioxidants (carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, mangoes, paw paw, spinach, kale, broccoli)
- STOP SMOKING!!!… smoking increases your risk of cataracts and AMD!
- Use of eye protection when necessary e.g. sunglasses that can filter out UV rays when outside; and safety goggles that protect the eyes from injury when doing activities such as grass-cutting, wood-cutting, hammering, drilling and welding.
This World Sight Day, let’s make sure that everyone, everywhere knows how to protect their vision, and has access to eye care from trained medical professionals. Let’s pledge to make Vision First!