World Sight Day
October 14 is World Sight Day. The topic of sight is somewhat close to my heart, as I spent many years of my life not being able to see very well. Beginning at age 11, I wore classes for myopia , then I moved to contact lenses. However, through the years, as my sight deteriorated, the prescription kept getting stronger (and the glasses more expensive) until I reached the point where I hardly ever wore glasses because they were so thick (even the “thin” lenses). I wore contact lenses all day, then I would put my glasses on at night, and when I took them off, I had them inches from my head, so I could easily grab them. I also had my clock inches from my face, so I could actually see the time it displayed.
In 1999, I decided that I had had enough of this routine, and invested in LASIK surgery. What a difference this has made in my life! Not only has it meant decreased costs throughout the years, as I have not had to purchase new contact lenses, glasses, and materials for cleaning the contact lenses, but I just realized it is more environmentally-friendly, as I have not added all the chemicals from the contact lens solutions to our waterways.
The biggest difference it has made in my life is that I now see, since December 30, 1999, 20/20 out of one eye and 20/25 out of the other. Realize just how strong my prescription was. I do not know what the “formula” is for converting prescriptions to visual acuity, but mine was worse than 20/800.
Once again, I realize how fortunate I am. I grew up and was living in the United States, and went to Canada for my surgery. Both of these countries are “developed” countries, and even with poor eyesight, I was able to see because I had access to the materials I needed (or wanted) to correct my vision. Not everyone in the world is so fortunate, which is why the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes World Sight Day, to bring attention to the problem of global blindness. World Sight Day is intended to raise public awareness around the world about the prevention and treatment of loss of vision.
The theme of World Sight Day this year is “Countdown to 2020”, which refers to “Vision 2020: The Right to Sight“, a global effort to prevent blindness created by WHO and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. Here are some statistics related to sight and blindness on a global basis:
- Worldwide, about 314 million people are visually impaired due to various cases; 45 million of them are blind.
- 153 million are visually impaired because of uncorrected refractive errors (near-sightedness, far-sightedness or astigmatism). Almost all of them could have normal vision restored with eyeglasses, contact lenses or refractive surgery.
- Cataract surgery and correction of refractive errors are among the most cost-effective health interventions.
- A majority of the blind people, about 90%, live in low or middle-income nations, where access to eye care is restricted.
- 39% of all blindness is due to age-related cataract, the leading cause of blindness (except in the most developed countries).
- About 82% of all people who are visually impaired are age 50 and older (although they represent only 19% of the world’s population).
- Most people with visual impairment are older, and females are more at risk at every age, in every part of the world.
- Age-related causes of visual impairment and blindness are increasing, as is blindness due to uncontrolled diabetes
- Among children, the major causes of avoidable blindness include cataract, retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), and Vitamin A deficiency.
- Blindness caused by infectious diseases is decreasing globally due to public health action. For example, blinding trachoma affects 40 million people today, compared to 360 million in 1985.
- Around 1.4 million children under age 15 are blind. Yet approximately half of all childhood blindness can be avoided by treating diseases early and by correcting abnormalities at birth such as cataract and glaucoma.
- Correction of refractive errors could give normal vision to more than 12 million children (ages five to 15).
- About 85% of all visual impairment is avoidable globally.
- Out of the eye care services that are administered worldwide, it is known that women and girls receive barely 35% of the care while men and boy receive well over 64%.
- Women and girls make up over two thirds of the blind population worldwide
Most forms of visual impairment and blindness can be avoided or can be readily treated or cured with well known and inexpensive measures.
The global target of the WHO’s prevention of blindness team is to ultimately reduce blindness prevalence to less than 0.5 % in all countries, or less than 1 % in any country.
On World Sight Day, remember to be grateful for your eyesight health, and think of those who are less fortunate than you. One way you can help is to donate your old glasses – you know, the ones you no longer use but did not know what to do with. There are a number of organizations that will collect your old glasses and distribute them to people in countries where people do not have the access to eye care, or the money to buy glasses. Collection facilities for an organization called New Eyes for the Needy include Goodwill Industries stores, LensCrafters stores, and Lions Club drop boxes. Items also can be sent in padded envelopes or boxes to:
New Eyes for the Needy
549 Millburn Avenue
P.O. Box 332
Short Hills, NJ 07078
New Eyes for the Needy suggests that you:
- E-mail ten friends who wear glasses to see if they have old pairs that could be recycled for people with eyesight problems. Collect them for donation.
- Check with lost and found departments in hotels, stores, police stations, and mortuaries for unclaimed glasses that could be donated.
This is just one way you could help someone else today. Maybe help yourself too – make that eye doctor appointment that you have been avoiding, or take your child to the eye doctor. Make sure your own eye health is not at risk. And again, be grateful for the blessing of sight that you have.