Eye Care Awareness Month is commemorated from September 20 to October 17 to raise awareness about the importance of eye health, specifically around the prevention and treatment of avoidable blindness.
World Retina Week will be celebrated from September 23 to 29. This also falls in line with Eye Care Awareness Month in South Africa.
Retina South Africa urges each and every South African to get involved to protect their precious vision using the 4 R’s, namely:
- Regular eye tests
- Regulate your lifestyle
- Contact Retina South Africa
- Support research to treat retinal blindness.
According to Claudette Medefindt of Retina SA, many vision problems that occur later in life could be avoided with early, and often quite simple, preventative measure.
“Smoking, overexposure to sunlight, poor diet, lack of physical fitness all contribute to the loss of vision. Many conditions that can be treated or even prevented with simple healthy lifestyle choices are ignored and public education is urgently required,” said Medefindt,
Medefindt said diabetes and macular degeneration currently affect people at an alarmingly increasing rate, and at a younger and younger age.
“Both of these conditions are asymptomatic for years and are sadly only diagnosed when the problems like damage to the retina are well established.
“Treatment at this stage is less effective and more expensive than early intervention. Besides loss of vision complications of diabetes may include heart attacks, kidney disease, strokes and limb amputations.
“Glaucoma is also asymptomatic early in the disease and a simple visit to an optometrist will identify raised pressure in the vitreous while it is still treatable.”
Medefindt said people affected by vision loss complain that they wish that they had known of their risks in their youth.
“This would have given them a chance to change their lifestyle in time to prevent or minimize the risks.
“Other types of vision problems can definitely be influenced by our lifestyle choices and even medications that we take can influence the quality of our vision. A regular visit to an eye care professional will identify any vision problems long before the critical stage.”
Medefindt said multiple and diverse conditions affect thousands of South Africans from every community and include – Retinitis Pigmentosa, Macular Dystrophies, Usher Syndrome and age related retinal conditions.
“Retina South Africa is dedicated to finding treatments for these incurable conditions but we need the support of South Africa to achieve this dream.
“Remarkable therapies are currently being tested in clinical trials and Retina South Africa is determined to make them and the treatments that will follow, accessible to all South Africans. Progress in gene therapy, stem cells and new technologies offer hope for a sighted future to thousands of South Africans.
For more information visit www.retinasa.org.za