World Sight Day
WHO has stated that 285 million people of all ages are visually impaired, of whom 39 million are blind. Approximately 82% of all visually impaired people are over the age of 50, with Diabetes Mellitus being one of the leading causes of blindness. Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy, one of the Ophthalmologist’s worst nightmares, affects up to 10% of the diabetic population. Risk factors thereof include poor diabetic control, smoking, obesity and Hypertension.
With such high statistics of violence in our country South Africa, we find that eye trauma- alongside conditions such as glaucoma and diabetes- tops the list of causes of visual impairment in both children and adults.
World Sight Day is commemorated every year on the second Thursday of October by creating awareness of vision impairment, conditions that lead to blindness and preventative measures thereof.
Globally, the day is commemorated in diverse ways, taking into consideration the various societal needs, availability of resources and scarce skills in the health facilities. Many of those who mark the day take the opportunity to both celebrate achievements to date and advocate for increasing attention towards eye care.
In our setting, the highlight of our awareness campaign in 2019 is the “planned sight- saving procedure marathons”. In Steve Biko Academic Hospital we are running a corneal transplant marathon for individuals whose visual impairment is due to corneal pathology. A Cataract marathon and a Retinal detachment surgery marathon are also in the pipeline. We are aiming at performing 10 corneal transplants, 50 cataract operations and 10 Retinal detachment operations over a period of three weeks. Patient screening procedures and theatre preparations have already been completed.
Members of the community are encouraged to visit their local health care centres where comprehensive information on visual impairment and eye care will be shared with them. Organizations such as Retina SA and South African Council for the Blind can also be contacted for information and assistance.
Violence in our country is a monster that is rearing its ugly head. Eye trauma, in all its forms, is a thief of our sanity as a society, our time and resources in health institutions where we struggle with shrinking budgets. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage every individual to seriously ponder the issue of violence in our country, especially against women and children, condemn it on every platform and at every level and strive towards peace, first within ourselves and to live peaceably with one another. Then our land will be healed.
It all starts with me!
Prof Priscilla S. Makunyane is the Academic Head of Department (Ophthalmology) at UP and Steve Biko Academic Hospital