PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUES

VISION FIRST

I would have begun by giving the historical perspective of the World Sight Day, but that would be boring to you, I guess. However, there is the need for me to tell you that the World Sight Day is held annually on the second Thursday of October every year. The theme for this year’s programme is Vision First

World sight day logo

The aim of this day is to:

  • Raise public awareness of issue surrounding blindness and visual impairments
  • To influence the government, and particularly federal ministers to participate in and donate funds to blindness prevention programme.
  • To educate the public about blindness prevention
  • To generate support for Vision 2020 programme and related activities.

Just How Significant is Vision?

  • Vision Plays an Important Role in Life
  • Vision develops alongside the development of the eye and the brain and is essential for child development.
  • From the moment an infant is born, vision plays an important role in how they grow and develop. For example, recognizing and then smiling or making noises at family and caregivers sets the foundation for intimacy and attachment. This type of communication and interaction are an important part of mental development.
  • Vision is also a catalyst in learning to move. By first seeing something interesting, and then wanting to move towards it, an infant starts to develop motor skills.
  • Vision continues to play an important role in exploration, learning and developing hand-eye coordination.
    In the transition from childhood into adolescence, vision is often an entry point into accessing the curriculum and educational attainment.
  • In adulthood, vision continues to play an important role on how people live their lives, most noticeably in work. For many tasks (such as picking a tea leaf through to driving a motor vehicle), vision is critical in enabling people to secure and retain employment.
  • Later in life, vision is used to ensure the completion of everyday activities, maintenance of independence and is a factor in better overall health.
  • Vision is particularly important for communication – half of all communication is non-verbal (such as gestures or facial expressions).
  • Approximately 80% of the information from the senses comes from vision.

It is quite disheartening that many people today have been robbed of this privilege and gift of life due to avoidable blindness for that matter. Remarkably, at least 75% of world blindness is believed to be entirely treatable or preventable. Why then are people suffering from visual challenges?

Well, the facts don’t lie;

  • 36 million people are blind.
  • 217 million people have moderate to severe visual impairment.
  • Out of those with moderate to severe visual impairment, 124 million people have uncorrected refractive errors and 65 million have cataract.
  • 253 million people are blind or visually impaired.
  • 1 billion people have near vision impairment.
  • More importantly, 89% of vision impaired people live in low income and middle income countries.
  • 55% of moderate or severely impaired people are women.

What exactly are the causes of blindness and visual impairment?
Causes of blindness or visual impairment are enormous and probably beyond the scope of this write up. However, below are the few among them, precisely the avoidable ones.
Cataract: This is an opacity in the lens of the eye. Most often the result of aging, it can also be genetic, congenital (from birth), or the result of disease, trauma or medication use. It is the most common cause of world blindness, accounting for almost 50% of cases.

Contributory factors include; cigarette smoking, UV-B light exposure, diabetes mellitus, drug use, possibly dehydration (e.g. from severe diarrhea), malnutrition, and heavy alcohol use.

Diabetic Retinopathy: People who are diabetic especially for a long time are prone to have challenges with their sight which can lead to blindness. As a matter of fact, diabetic retinopathy occurs in more than half of the people who have diabetes. The likelihood of developing diabetic retinopathy is related to the duration of the disease. What exactly happens in DR? Elevated sugar levels from diabetes can damage the small blood vessels that nourish the retina (sensory part of the eye) and may, in some cases, block them completely. When damaged blood vessels leak fluid into the retina it results in a condition known as diabetic macular edema which causes swelling in the center part of the eye (macula) that provides the sharp vision needed for reading and recognizing faces.

Glaucoma: often called the silent thief of sight, it is the second most common cause of world blindness, accounting for 12.3% of cases (4.4 million people).

Risk factors include increasing age, ethnicity, increasing pressure within the eye, and genetic predisposition; possibly diabetes mellitus.

To manage; the pressure within the eye needs to be maintained through the use of a variety of drugs therapies. Difficult cases may be treated with laser therapy or surgically.

Eye injuries:All the structures of the eye are vulnerable to injury, but the site often depends on the cause and mechanism of the injury. It is arguably the leading cause of blindness in children. Compared to women/girls, the risk of eye injuries in men/boys is four times higher. You ask why? Well, probably because men and boys tend to be physically “reckless”. Agents of eye injuries are considerably numerous ranging from sharps, broomstick, catapult, fireworks, broken bottles, high velocity missiles such as bullets, chemicals, fire and so on.

Childhood blindness (e.g. vitamin A deficiency, measles etc.)
Refractive Errors

How do we prevent blindness and protect our vision?

  • Keep sharp objects and chemicals away from children.
  • The use of helmet and protective eye glasses for bike riders, sport men (contact sports), welders and farmers particularly at harvest time.
  • The use of eye protectors, sun shade and screen protector for your phone and computers.
  • Regular eye check at least once in a year
  • Face washing is beneficial
    Immunizing your children with Vitamin A.
  • Make use of your safety belt
  • Do not take unprescribed medications.
  • Fruits and vegetables may slow the development of cataract and other age-related eye diseases.
  • Keep your blood sugar in check.
  • DO NOT put urine, sugar solution, leave juices, breast milk, alcohol and battery water into your eye. They can permanently damage your vision.
  • Report red eye to the eye clinic, it is an emergency.

If I ask you what is the one thing that you would like to save or preserve above anything else. I guess it will be your life. So, if you want to save your life, you need to save your sight. Vision is life after all. Vision First.

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