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Protect Your Eyes
Healthy Vision, Protect Your Eyes

Healthy Vision Month

Our eyes are our windows to the world, yet many of us take them for granted. Eye health is one of the most important aspects of maintaining a good quality of life, but millions of people around the world, including in South Africa, suffer from preventable or treatable eye diseases.

How big is the issue of eye health?

According to the World Health Organization over 2.2 billion people worldwide live with vision impairment or blindness – but for almost half of these people, the problem could have been prevented.

Here in South Africa eye disease is a serious problem, which is made worse by the fact that many people do not have access to proper eye care.

What are the most common eye diseases?

Particularly here in South Africa, the most common eye diseases include:

  • Cataracts: Cataracts form when the lens of your eye becomes cloudy, making it hard to see. They usually happen as you get older and can affect one or both eyes. They are easy to treat through surgery, which can completely restore vision.
  • Glaucoma: Glaucoma is an eye condition where pressure inside the eye increases and damages the nerve, which causes a loss of vision. It often has no early symptoms, so regular eye exams are important if it is to be discovered. If left untreated, glaucoma can result in blindness. It often affects younger individuals but can occur at any age.
  • Diabetic retinopathy: This disease usually affects people with diabetes. It is a major cause of blindness among adults if not treated. High blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the retina so it is extremely important that it is found early and blood sugar levels are controlled.

What are early signs of eye disease?

These are some of the symptoms of eye disease:

  • Blurry vision which can be sudden or happen over time
  • Eye pain
  • Redness that is ongoing in one or both eyes
  • Floaters and flashes, for example, sudden appearance of spots or flashes of light
  • Difficulty seeing at night or in low light
  • Difficulty seeing objects on the side (known as “peripheral vision”)

Why are regular eye exams important?

Having your eyes checked regularly is the most important step in keeping your eyes heathy and preventing vision problems because:

  • Early detection identifies problems before symptoms appear.
  • Ongoing monitoring means keeping track of changes in vision or eye health.
  • Preventative care gives you guidance on how to protect your vision.
  • You can take the correct action at the right time for all eye related issues.

Tips for maintaining good vision and eye health

  • Make sure you have regular eye exams. Have an eye exam every two years. Many primary health care clinics offer basic eye tests.
  • Eat a healthy diet. A heart-healthy diet – low in fat with plenty of fruit, vegetables and whole grains – can also help with eye health.
  • Use sunglasses that block 100% of UV-A and UV-B rays and wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from dangerous activities.
  • Limit screen time. Follow the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
  • Control any chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol.
  • Don’t smoke. It increases the risk of eye disease.
  • Exercise regularly. It improves blood circulation, which is good for your eyes.