When we think about prevention in health care, we tend to focus on the worst diseases, those that threaten life- cancer, heart attacks, stroke, violence. But non-fatal conditions can also “threaten life”, putting the quality of our lives in danger.
Limited vision contributes to severe and significant loss of function and well being. If you include people whose vision problems are corrected with glasses or contacts, it may be the most common disability in the world. But even excluding those people, vision loss still affects millions of people in the world.
Courtesy: National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health (NEI/NIH)
Here are some key facts about vision loss from
WHO (World Health Organization)
- 285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide: 39 million are blind and 246 have low vision.
- About 90% of the world’s visually impaired live in low-income settings.
- 82% of people living with blindness are aged 50 and above.
- Globally, uncorrected refractive errors are the main cause of moderate and severe visual impairment; cataracts remain the leading cause of blindness in middle- and low-income countries.
- The number of people visually impaired from infectious diseases has reduced in the last 20 years according to global estimates work.
- 80% of all visual impairment can be prevented or cured.
Braille system: A system of raised-dot writing devised by Louis Braille (1809-1852) for the blind in which each letter is represented as a raised pattern that can be read by touching with the fingers.
A refractive error is a very common eye disorder. It occurs when the eye cannot clearly focus the images from the outside world, causing blurred vision.
The four most common refractive errors are:
- myopia (nearsightedness): difficulty in seeing distant objects clearly;
- hyperopia (farsightedness): difficulty in seeing close objects clearly;
- astigmatism: distorted vision resulting from an irregularly curved cornea, the clear covering of the eyeball.
- presbyopia: which leads to difficulty in reading or seeing at arm’s length, it is linked to ageing and occurs almost universally.
Refractive errors are commonly corrected with glasses or contact lenses, or refractive surgery.
Contacts correct my vision impairments-myopia, astigmatism, and presbyopia. I can read, drive, watch television, dance, take care of my home and work without difficulty.
My husband fights to protect his vision. He had severe myopia which was partially corrected with surgery. However, he subsequently developed early onset macular degeneration, a condition which destroys the retina of the eye causing loss of central vision. Progression of the degeneration is slowed with regular injections of a drug originally developed to treat cancers. (If a shot into the eye sounds painful, it is.) He has also had removal of cataracts. So far he is still able to function visually, but he appreciates his sight and does whatever he can to preserve it.
The New York Times reviewed the latest treatments for macular degeneration
Globally, the causes of blindness are
- cataract (47.9%) the leading cause of visual impairment in all areas of the world, except for developed countries.
- glaucoma (12.3%),
- age-related macular degeneration (AMD) (8.7%),
- corneal opacities (5.1%),
- diabetic retinopathy (4.8%),
- childhood blindness (3.9%),
- trachoma (3.6%)
- onchocerciasis (0.8%).
Visual impairment and blindness can be prevented.
Preventing some of these conditions such as trachoma and onchocerciasis, infections that target the eye and occur in the developing world, need public health measures to control.
You can protect and save your sight with these steps-
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Have an eye professional examine your eyes.
An eye doctor, either an optometrist or ophthalmologist, can detect early signs of eye disease, even before you notice a problem. Go here for an explanation of what each of these professionals do .
Avoid smoking cigarettes.
Smoking constricts the blood vessels supplying the eye with oxygen rich blood, thereby suffocating the tissue. This contributes to cataracts and macular degeneration.
Here are some other other surprising reasons to avoid smoking
Protect your eyes from sunlight.
Sun exposure also contributes to cataracts so wearing UV protective sunglasses is recommended.
Eat a healthy diet, high in fruits, vegetables and healthy fats.
Macular degeneration has been associated with low intake of vitamins A, C, and E, omega 3 fatty acids, lutein and zinc. The best source for this is food. For people who already have macular degeneration or who are at high risk, eye doctors may recommend a vitamin supplement which provides these nutrients.
Manage chronic health conditions.
Diabetes contributes to blindness by damaging the retina. Good control of blood sugar helps to prevent or slow this, as well as regular monitoring and laser treatment when needed. Vision loss is one of the most common complications from diabetes and one that can be prevented or minimized. If you have diabetes, take it seriously and work with your doctor to manage it well.
You may have diabetes and not know it. Certain symptoms may indicate diabetes; read about them here.
If you have not been tested for diabetes, ask your doctor if you should. It’s a simple blood test called Hemoglobin A1c and is available at this affiliate link . (This link will pay a commission to this blog).
Other chronic conditions associated with vision loss are heart disease and stroke, hypertension, high cholesterol, sickle cell disease, and multiple sclerosis.
Protect your eyes from trauma.
In addition to wearing sunglasses when outdoors, appropriate protective lenses should be worn during sports. People who work at jobs involving power tools or chemicals need protective goggles in case of splashes or flying bits of material. Children, adolescents and young adults are most likely to lose vision from traumatic injuries.
Know and observe the rules for contact lens use.
This is a bonus tip for those of you like me who need contact lenses to correct their vision. I know how tempting it can be to cut corners in regards to cleaning, storing, discarding and wearing contacts. But when used incorrectly, contacts can cause more problems than they solve. Contact wear can cause ulcers on the cornea, infections and dryness that can injure the cornea. Don’t risk turning correctable vision problems into long term damage. Get the details on caring for contacts here.
The Story of My Life is an autobiography of Helen Keller, a woman who was both blind and deaf since infancy. Her remarkable story was also told in a movie
The Miracle Worker for which Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke as Helen won Oscars for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress
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