The colossal problem of blindness is well known to the ophthalmologists, planners, and administrators of this country. There are 9 million blind and 45 million visually impaired individuals. Of the 9 million 85% are curable and in 27% blindness could have been prevented if timely measures of promotion of ocular health, prevention of eye diseases and cure of many ocular pathologies had been taken at an early stage. This is equally true for reducing number of visually impaired. Such visual involvement, blindness and visual impairment place a huge economic and social burden on the nation. Visual impairment is a huge global challenge, both in terms of the burden of disability and the loss of productivity, resulting in a permanent loss of vision. The Ministry of Health, Govt. of India has launched a National Programme for Prevention of Visual Impairment and Control of Blindness to be completed in a period of 20 years. It has recognized that: “One of the basic human rights is the right to see. We have to ensure that no citizen goes blind needlessly, or being blind does not remain so, if by reasonable deployment of skill and resources his sight can be prevented from deteriorating or if already lost can be restored”. Also, in order to strengthen the eye health and prevention of blindness programme, the Sixty-Sixth World Health Assembly (WHA), which took place in Geneva from 20 to 27 May 2013 endorsed a new global action plan for prevention and control of avoidable blindness “Global Action Plan 2014–2019 for Universal Eye Health”.
It is very important to have regular eye examinations to stop your eyes becoming damaged by undiagnosed conditions. Most people should have their eyes tested at least once every two years, but if there’s a health condition, such as diabetes, glaucoma or high blood pressure (hypertension), then they will probably need to have them tested more regularly. An optometrist can advise better about how often to have your eyes tested. It is very important for drivers and people whose eyesight may be affected by their occupation, such as those who use computer monitors, to have regular eye examinations. Children should also have regular eye examinations. This is because it is very important that visual problems are diagnosed early so that learning and other developmental problems can be prevented.
Preventive eye care is the first line of defense against vision problems. Early detection of vision problems may offer more effective treatment options:
- Having periodic eye exams (every 2-3 years for healthy patients under 50, yearly for patients over 50 or those with known health risk factors).
- Knowing your family’s history for any eye problems (hereditary problems).
- Following a healthy lifestyle.
- Eating a nutritious diet for eyesight.
- Wearing durable eye protection when involved in activities that could cause traumatic risk to your vision, such as sports, dealing with firearms, playing paintball and occupations, where hammering, cutting, sawing, drilling, or working overhead are other examples.
- Avoid hazards such as fireworks.
- Maintaining healthy eyesight also depends on getting sufficient vitamins and dietary nutrients. These nutrients play a key role in keeping the eye moist and helping protect your eyes from infection. A well-balanced diet will provide most of what normal adults need. Foods rich in omega fatty acids, and leafy green veggies contain lots of valuable nutrients. Vitamins A, C, and E are essential for good eyesight. Lutein and zeaxanthin may protect the macula and retina.
- Watch your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
- Smoking is a major risk factor in the development of macular degeneration.
Eyestrain is common in the healthiest of people, especially today as we spend more time in front of screens- cell phones or computer. You can also try some easy steps to prevent or ease eyestrain.
- Staying fresh: When using a computer or doing a concentrated activity such as sewing or reading, rest your eyes for five minutes every hour. Look away from your work, close your eyes, or simply stare off into space.
- Blink regularly. Blinking helps reduce evaporation of the tear film that protects the cornea. Forceful blinking also relieves the strain of the continuous focus when you have been reading or looking at a computer screen, increasing the amount of concentrated activity you can perform.
- While driving for long stretches, alternatively focus on the dashboard and a faraway object. Changing the focus periodically will relax the eye muscles and prevent eyestrain.