In honor of World Sight Day, which is October 10th this year, and Blindness Awareness Month, I’m asking that if you are able to, please have your vision and eye health checked by a qualified ophthalmologist or optometrist.
Per the American Optometric Association:
Periodic eye and vision examinations are an important part of preventive health care. Many eye and vision problems have no obvious signs or symptoms. As a result, individuals are often unaware that problems exist. Early diagnosis and treatment of eye and vision problems are important for maintaining good vision and eye health, and when possible, preventing vision loss.
Blindness and visual impairment are not rare conditions. According to Lighthouse International:
Over 285 million people in the world are visually impaired, of whom 39 million are blind and 246 million have moderate to severe visual impairment (WHO, 2011). It is predicted that without extra interventions, these numbers will rise to 75 million blind and 200 million visually impaired by the year 2020 (WHO, 2010).
About 80% of blindness is avoidable (preventable or curable), and 90% of the world’s blind live in a developing country (WHO, 2010).
Globally, about 85% of all visual impairment and 75% of blindness could be prevented or cured worldwide (WHO, 2010).
80% of global blindness is a result of five preventable or treatable conditions (cataract, refractive error, Trachoma, onchocerciasis and vitamin A deficiency) (Vision 2020, n.d.).
In the United States, the leading causes of blindness are: age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. Prevention and/or treatment may be possible with these conditions. For additional information and images of how people with these conditions see, click here.
In light of Halloween occurring this month, please do not buy novelty contact lenses. All contact lenses that are purchased without a prescription from a doctor can be very dangerous and even lead to blindness. If you think you could never have permanent vision issues from novelty contacts, think again. Here is all you need to know from the FDA.
If you are interested in helping prevent blindness and visual impairment when possible, Charity Navigator has given 4-star ratings, which is the highest, to the following charities which work in the developing world. There are many charities of this nature, but I would suggest you make sure they are reputable. Click on any of these links to visit their website:
As I lost significant vision to keratoconus—a non-preventable corneal disease—I will also mention the National Keratoconus Foundation, which has been a great source of information for me.
If you have prescription glasses or frames, reading glasses, or even sunglasses that you no longer wear, they can be donated to those in need. Children’s glasses are especially in demand. The Lions Club is a great organization around the world that has drop off boxes in various locations, or you may mail them your glasses in the US. More information is on their website.
Most major cities have some type of local organization or center for the blind and visually impaired. Volunteers are always needed and an online search can help you find one in your area. Volunteering is a great way to help people by simply giving your time.
If you can donate even a dollar, or equivalent, to help save someone’s vision from a preventable disease, provide glasses to someone who can’t afford them, or volunteer your time, please do so.
Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today when it comes to the health of your eyes and never take your vision for granted. If I live in the United States, had yearly eye exams, and started to lose my vision in my mid 30s, then anyone can.