Prevention trumps cure on sight
Each year, on every second Thursday of October, South Africa celebrates sight awareness day. WILLIAM GEORGE explores the importance of eye care and eye protection in the workplace
This year the theme for Sight Awareness Day is Making Vision Count, to highlight the importance of preventing blindness and vision impairment.
This is achieved through emphasising proper eye care and protection, which is vital in order for people to carry on with their daily duties.
According to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), approximately 285-million people worldwide live with low-vision and blindness. Of these
246 million have moderate to severe visual impairment, and 39 million are blind. However, 80 percent of those with visual impairment can be treated, and in most cases impairment is avoidable.
Sarah Heep, marketing officer at St John South Africa, says: “Poor eyesight can have an enormously negative effect on an individual’s quality of life, affecting their ability to read, perform household tasks, drive and of course hold down a job.”
St John South Africa, a first-aid and community health training provider, has been offering essential eye care services to all South Africans since the early 1950s when it fundraised and built the St John Eye Hospital at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg.
St John employs registered optometrists and currently has ten eye clinics operating in major towns around South Africa.
Experiencing discomfort, itchiness, double-vision, irritable eyes and visual problems, should be reason for concern. Heep says: “Most of us take the gift of sight for granted until it is too late and the damage is irreversible.”
Heep quotes the Vision Health Initiative of the Centre for Disease Control (VHI-CDC), which says: “Those with poor vision are more likely to experience diabetes, poor hearing, heart problems, high blood pressure, lower back pain and stroke and have an increased risk for fall, injury and depression.
“Now isn’t that enough to make you pick up the phone to book an eye examination?” Heep asks.
There are many eye-protection products on the market that are suitable for many applications including working with chemicals, welding and when using a computer.
“We encourage people to take a few seconds to put on their goggles, spectacles or welding mask. Similarly, those who spend a lot of time outdoors should remember to protect their eyes from excessive exposure to damaging UV rays by wearing good-quality sunglasses or a wide-brimmed hat,” she advises.
Eye examinations should be a regular task for every person to ensure good vision. Preventative action includes making regular eye appointments with a registered optometrist for an eye examination, so that problems can be diagnosed and treated early on. Anyone who experiences a decrease in vision, eye pain, a discharge, redness of the eye, or double vision should visit an eye-care professional.
Heep shares preventative tips to ensure eye protection:
• Get to know the eye history of your family, and have regular eye examinations;
• Eat a diet which includes dark, leafy, green vegetables such as spinach or kale;
• Eat fish high in Omega 3 fatty acids;
• Maintain a healthy body weight;
• Practise workplace safety and wear protective eyewear when working with hazardous materials;
• Ensure adequate lighting when working indoors;
• Use sunglasses that block out 99 to 100 percent of harmful UVA and UVB rays;
• Smokers should consider quitting;
• Be sure to wash your hands before your touching eyes or handling contact lenses.
“St John extends its services by offering fashionable budget spectacles to those who cannot afford medical aid, or commercial frames. Where necessary, a St John optometrist can provide the client with a referral to a provincial hospital for corrective surgery,” Heep concludes.