Taking place from 23 September to 18 October each year, Eye Care Awareness Month focuses on reducing blindness due to injury or illness and improving general eye health.
“With 80 out of every 100 cases of blindness being avoidable, the Self-Medication Manufacturers Association of South Africa (SMASA) is encouraging all South Africans to start taking proper care of their eyes during Eye Care Awareness Month”, says SMASA Executive Director Nicola Brink.
Here are a few statistics to bring this important month into perspective:
- One in three people are near-sighted.
- More than 10 million people in South Africa struggle with farsightedness.
- Three people out of every 10 have some form of astigmatism.
- At least five percent of South Africans will get glaucoma in their lifetime.
These self-care tips will help you – and your family – keep your eyes healthy:
Schedule an eye test annually. Optometrists are trained to pick up eye problems before they become an insurmountable problem. If you have children, take them for an eye test before they start primary school and again before they enter high school. If you suspect eye problems, take them for a check-up immediately.
Keep an eye out for any symptoms. Headaches, fuzziness, floating objects, dark spots, grey areas in your vision, night blindness and light flashes in your eyes are all a good reason to head to your optometrist immediately. Remember, most illnesses are treatable if addressed early.
Know your status. Diabetes is known to be the leading cause of blindness in adults, so don’t forget to include a blood sugar test when you go for your annual health check-up.
Practice eye health.
- Give your eyes a break every 15 minutes when you’re working on a computer by looking out of a window. Or, try the 20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, focus on something 20 feet (6+ metres) away.
- If you wear contact lenses, make sure you wash them properly with contact lens fluid – never water. And each day, give your eyes time to breathe without the lenses in
- Always wash your hands before touching your eyes and as a general rule, try to avoid touching your eyes at all.
- You are what you eat, especially when it comes to your eyes. Zinc, vitamins C and E, omega-3s and lutein all help to strengthen your eyes. Think green leafy veg, oily fish, eggs, beans, nuts, citrus fruit, oysters and pork.
- Stay safe.If you’re working with power tools or doing hard manual labour, wear safety glasses or appropriate eyewear to keep dust and foreign objects away from your eyes.
Cover up. Those sunglasses aren’t just for show. They protect your eyes from the harsh light of the sun, something that is particularly important for blue eyes. Choose lenses that block both UVA and UVB rays. Polarised lenses also reduce glare, especially when on the road.