Eye Care/Prevention of Blindness Programme | Western Cape Government

Eye Care/Prevention of Blindness Programme


The Eye Care/Prevention of Blindness Programme aims to:

  • Prevent eye conditions that can lead to blindness.
  • Treat existing eye conditions to prevent further damage to vision.
  • Where possible, offer interventions to restore vision and to enhance the quality of sight.

What common eye conditions are treated in the programme?

  • Refractive errors: Eye-care Prevention of Blindness Programme
    Eye-care Prevention of Blindness Programme
    Refractive errors are the term used for what is commonly known as bad sight and include problems with vision, including nearsightedness (cannot see details far away from you), farsightedness (struggle to see objects and detail close to you), distorted vision and 'ageing eyes'. 'Ageing eyes' usually occurs around the age of 40 when the lens of the eye becomes less rigid, and reading at close range becomes an issue.
  • Childhood blindness: Childhood blindness refers to all common eye conditions found in children. This includes refractive errors, lazy eyelids, and astigmatism (irregular shape of the cornea that can cause blurred vision). Because some eye conditions are usually associated with ageing in a person, childhood blindness issues are categorised and treated differently from normal eye conditions in adults. Babies and toddlers are screened for eye health as part of regular clinic visits to monitor the child’s growth and development. The eyes of older children are screened as part of the Western Cape Government school health programmes. Children with eye issues will be referred from the school health programme to a primary healthcare facility for treatment.
  • Cataracts: The term cataract refers to your natural lens turning cloudy, and making your vision blurry. Cataracts are caused by the clumping of proteins in the lens that can grow bigger in time and cause blurry vision and later complete blindness. Cataracts can be identified by nursing staff at the clinic and can be treated with an operation. There is a waiting list at our secondary facilities for cataract operations, and once diagnosed at a clinic, it may take some time before it can be removed.
  • Glaucoma: Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that are caused by damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve is very important as it carries sight images to the brain. The optic nerve can be damaged by too much pressure inside the eye. Though glaucoma can be treated (if diagnosed early) to prevent blindness, the condition can't be cured.
  • Diabetic retinopathy: Diabetic retinopathy is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the tissue at the back of the eye (retina). As the name indicates, this condition can occur in people living with Diabetes Mellitus, and like glaucoma, it can't be cured but can be prevented and treated. The symptoms of diabetic retinopathy can include floaters, blurriness, dark areas of vision, and difficulty perceiving colours. Chronic patients living with Diabetes will be screened for diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma as part of the general monitoring of their health.

What does prevention of blindness programmes include?

  • Health care workers, including nursing staff and doctors, provide general health education, this includes ways to care for your eyesight. Look out for community health days in your local community that often offer health screenings – including basic eye tests. The Western Cape Government immunisation programme is also aimed at preventing diseases linked to childhood blindness such as measles in children and Vitamin A supplements that can prevent blindness in children.

Screening, diagnoses, and treatment of eye conditions start by visiting your local clinic. Basic eye examinations are available at all Primary Health Care clinics and centres. If necessary, clients will be referred to secondary or tertiary level hospitals for further testing and treatment.

If you need spectacles, your name will be placed on a waiting list, and the primary health care nurse will make an appointment for you with an optometrist who visits the clinic on a sessional basis. Children with eye conditions will (once screened and identified through the school health programme) also be referred to the local clinic. 

First-time visitors to the clinic or secondary/tertiary hospital will be asked to fill out a form, and a folder will be opened for the patient. Bring your ID book. A referral letter from the clinic will be required when visiting a hospital. Hospitals will ask for your most recent payslip/income assessment (IRP5). Bring your hospital card if previously registered at the hospital.

Provided At: These facility categories:
Provided by:
Government Body: (Western Cape Government)

Free at Primary Health Care level. If you are referred to a hospital, there is a cost involved. The amount will depend on how much you earn and on how many dependents you have, according to the hospital rating scale.

The content on this page was last updated on 8 September 2020