Over 1.1 billion people in the world are blind or vision impaired, but four out of five of those people don’t need to be. CEO of The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ, Dr Audrey Aumua says we must do more to care for our eyes.
Vision impairment interferes with daily activities and severely limits possibilities for education and employment. Those who are blind rely on others to care for them, impacting the carer’s ability to go to school, work or participate in community activities.
“Looking after your vision is easy, but like eating and washing it must be done daily,” says Dr Audrey.
To help, the experienced team at the Pacific Eye Institute has suggested some easy eye care tips.
The best way to look after your eyes is to prevent a problem happening in the first place. This starts in childhood. Playing at least one to two hours every day in natural sunlight has been proven to reduce the risk of children becoming short-sighted. Turn off the TV or computer and send children outside.
Time in front of screens is not good for our eyes. Use the 20/20/20 rule – every 20 minutes look 20 metres away, for about 20 seconds. Like any muscle your eyes weaken without exercise so when possible, go outside and look into the distance to give your eyes a workout.
Diabetes eye disease, or diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of preventable blindness in Fijian working age adults. The condition can develop in anyone with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Eating a healthy diet is the best way to prevent and manage diabetes. If you have diabetes it is very important that you take your medication and replace it when it runs out.
While we enjoy a tropical climate in Fiji, too much sun exposure is bad for our eyes. Wear quality sunglasses if you’re going outside and if you’re doing any sports or building work, wear appropriate eye protection.
It’s important to get your eyes checked regularly. When you go to the doctor, ask if you can have your eyes checked as well. Kirti Prasad, General Manager Pacific Eye Institute is issuing a special request for the women of Fiji to schedule an eye check in the next six months.
“For every 100 men experiencing vision impairment, there are 108 women affected. We women are good at ignoring problems because we are busy looking after others. But who will look after your family if you cannot see?
“Looking after your sight is one way you can care for your family not just today, but into the future,” says Kirti.
Regular eye checks are as important as a health check or vaccination. Dr Audrey says an eye check should be part of preparing a child to start school. “When you go out to buy the uniform and school bag, bring your child to the doctor for an eye test,” says Dr Audrey.
Dr Audrey also warns it’s very important to not ignore any warning signs.
“If you’re finding it harder to see, if you have headaches or if you notice any pain or changes go to a doctor. Eye conditions can be managed but it is best if we see you as soon as possible,” says Dr Audrey.