World sight day - hope in sight
The joy of sight is something we can easily take for granted.
Gerald Simon from Beaufort West has first-hand experience of having sight the one day and almost none the next. “I woke up one day with no sight in my right eye. I was referred to a specialist and had a procedure done for retinal detachment and today I can see better than ever before. I am grateful for the excellent job done by health staff,” says Simon.
Central Karoo Professional Ophthalmic Nurse, Sanna Makok, is often the first point of contact for patients such as Gerald with eye problems. “Most people with vision impairment are over the age of 50 years; however, vision loss can affect people of all ages.”
Common causes of vision impairment include uncorrected refractive errors, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, corneal opacity, and trachoma.
Sanna is proud of her profession. “I experience great joy when non-navigational patients confirm sight post operatively,” she says. She has insight and understands her community’s social economic conditions since it’s a rural area with limited resources. “I have seen many patients in our rural settings that make use of home remedies for their eyes, such as the use of glycerine, which can lead to permanent damage. We implore these patients to seek health care as soon as possible,” says Sanna.
She draws on her communication skills during consultations to educate patients. “I try my best to communicate and explain clinical terms and conditions to patients so that they understand the nature of their disease or condition. This improves compliance and adherence, because the patient understands his/her condition or diseases and what it entails,” she explains.
World Sight Day is commemorated on 8 October 2020 with the theme: Hope In Sight. One billion people around the world have a preventable vision impairment or one that has yet to be addressed. Reduced or absent eyesight can have major and long-lasting effects on all aspects of life, including daily personal activities, interacting with the community, school and work opportunities and the ability to access public services. Reduced eyesight can be caused by several factors, including diseases like diabetes and trachoma, trauma to the eyes, or conditions such as refractive error, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration or glaucoma.
Signs that you may need optometry or ophthalmology services include:
- Sudden loss of sight in one or both eyes
- Sudden or severe eye pain
- Severe itching and burning eyes might be a symptom of infectious conjunctivitis (pink eye)
- If you see flashes of light in one spot or several flashes in a wider area across your field of vision
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Cloudy, blurred or double vision
- Difficulty focusing on objects
- Difficulty seeing at night or when driving
- Frequent headaches
You can look after your eyes by:
- Going for an eye test every two years.
- Protecting your eyes against the sun, wind, dust, and bright light. When spending time in the sun, wear sunglasses that offer UV protection.
- Eat healthy food, including food rich in anti-oxidants (green leafy vegetables and citrus fruit), carotene (carrots and spinach), zinc (beef, pork, and lamb), and selenium (fish, seafood and red meat).
- Avoid damaging your eyes by wearing protective glasses when you operate machinery.
- If a foreign object or chemicals come into your eyes, wash it out with water and go to the emergency unit for treatment.
- Make sure there is enough light when you read, knit, or crochet so that you do not strain your eyes.
- Make sure there is enough distance between your eyes and your computer, cellphone and television. Take regular breaks from using your device to rest your eyes.
Western Cape Government Health offers a range of ophthalmology services. Our primary health care facilities offer screening for reading glasses or referral for optometry services. For more information on eyecare services, visit https://www.westerncape.gov.za/service/eye-careprevention-blindness-programme.