Unless you or someone close to you have experienced full or partial vision loss or impairment, the gift of sight probably isn't something we truly appreciate as often as we should. World Sight Day aims to change that.
• What is World Sight Day?
• Importance of eye health
• How to celebrate World Sight Day
What is World Sight Day?
According to The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), World Sight Day "is an annual day of awareness held on the second Thursday of October to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment." The organization's members work throughout the year on initiatives related to the importance of blindness and vision impairment, but the day of public awareness helps further the agency's visibility.
On World Sight Day, IAPD members come together with chapters across the world to:
• Raise overall awareness of vision impairment and blindness as it relates to an issue of international public health
• Influence leaders across the world to recognize, participate in, and allocate funding for national blindness prevention programming
• Educate those around them about the importance of eye health and blindness prevention
In 2020, World Sight Day will be held on October 8 and is the most critical advocacy and publicity day for eye health. This year's call to action is "hope in sight." According to IAPB, more than 75% of the people in the world who are considered vision impaired have a condition that could be improved by corrective lenses. The agency believes that this accounts for more than a billion people worldwide who cannot see or cannot see well, simply because they don't have access to eyeglasses or multifocal contact lenses.
The Importance of Eye Health
Many people believe that vision loss is a part of life as you age. Although certain conditions are age-related, increasing a patient's access to eye care can improve several eye conditions. As of 2020, at least 2.2 billion people in the world have a vision problem — many of which aren't addressed. Of those, at least one billion people's impairments could have been prevented or have yet to be addressed.
World Sight Day not only increases awareness of blindness but also of the eye conditions that can lead to complete or partial sight loss. According to IAPB, millions of people in the world today are living with conditions that drastically increase their risk of experiencing complete or partial sight loss:
• 196 million people live with age-related macular degeneration, which worsens over time and is the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over the age of 60.
• 146 million people live with diabetic retinopathy, which affects people with diabetes and damages the retina's blood vessels. According to the American Diabetes Association, at least 90% of diabetic retinopathy cases could be reduced with proper treatment access.
• 76 million people are living with glaucoma, the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world. Although glaucoma is considered a sight-threatening medical emergency, most cases cause few to no symptoms at first and can only be diagnosed by regular eye exams.
• 5 million people live with trachomatous trichiasis, an infection caused by the Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria. This infection causes the eyelids' inner surface to become rough, which eventually breaks down the cornea's outer surface. Without treatment, the result is a painful existence that will eventually lead to blindness.
• 277 million people are living with high myopia, also known as severe nearsightedness. High myopia increases the risk of cataracts, retinal detachment, and glaucoma and, if left untreated, can put patients at serious risk of vision-threatening impacts.
Regular eye exams are one of the most often overlooked — no pun intended — annual medical appointments because people think that their vision is fine. However, when exposed to the actual impact that traditional corrective or multifocal contact lenses can have on their sight, many people realize that their eyes were worse than they thought. Scheduling and attending an annual comprehensive eye exam with an ophthalmologist or optometrist can improve your vision and provide early detection for conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, and strokes.
The five easiest ways to protect your vision are:
• Attend regular eye exams and follow up when you have concerns.
• Eat a healthy diet, including foods specifically targeting your eye health such as fish, eggs, carrots, and kale.
• Learn your family's history of eye-related problems.
• Purchase and wear protective sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays, and wear them regardless of the amount of sunlight outside.
• Avoid smoking.
Reasons to See Your Eye Doctor
Outside of annual examinations, other triggers warrant an immediate phone call to your eye doctor. World Sight Day is about preventing and treating conditions that can cause blindness, so if you experience any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor to set up an appointment as soon as possible.
• Circles, also known as halos, around lights
• Double vision
• The appearance of tiny specks of light that appear to float in front of your eyes, also known as floaters
• Decreased vision
• Eye pain
• Flashes of light
• Draining or eye redness
How to Celebrate World Sight Day
There are tons of easy ways to celebrate World Sight Day, regardless of whether or not an IAPB chapter exists near you. If you're active on social media, sharing the initiative is a great way to share the message and engage your network to raise awareness in your community and beyond. If you're an organ donor, check with the organization you registered through to see if your eyes are included in the donation. Many people are unable to use multifocal contact lenses or glasses because their eyesight is too bad. Although it may seem a bit morbid, donating your eyes can make a life-changing difference to someone who has lost their eyesight.
Another great way to get involved with World Sight Day is to utilize any community connections you have to host a free eye check for your community. Unfortunately, poverty and lack of transportation or access are significant barriers that prevent millions of people from scheduling annual routine eye exams. By bringing these services to the people in your community who need them most, you can significantly impact ensuring there is Hope In Sight this World Sight Day.
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