Spare a thought for those with precious treasure of eyesight lost

The agony of facing an irrevocably dark, totally eclipsed life has been expressed by many, right from 17th century’s famous poet John Milton to Colley Cibber in his above lines in the ‘Blind Boy’. Years have gone by since then but there are still approximately 314 million people worldwide with low vision and blindness.

On the World Sight Day today, India has a greater concern to share with the world for having the highest number of blind in the world. The number of blind in the country is 15 million and sadly, India also accounts for one-fifth of the world’s blind children. The ray of hope in the world of darkness, however, could be the fact that 50 per cent of blindness can be prevented with proper awareness, adequate infrastructure and well trained teams of eye care professionals.

Restorations of sight and blindness prevention strategies are also among the most cost-effective interventions in healthcare. The need is to be aware and take care of your precious eye sight. Vision 2020,the joint programme of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) works with an international membership of NGOs, professional associations, eye care institutions and corporations for the elimination of avoidable blindness.

Expert studies have alerted that without effective major intervention, the number of blind people worldwide is likely to increase to 76 million by 2020. Women face a significantly greater risk of vision loss than men. Two-thirds of blind people worldwide are women and girls. That is why the focus of Vision 2020’s global public awareness initiative on World Sight Day this year is on Gender and Eye care: Equal Access to Care.

The National Programme for Control of Blindness has decided to support the development of a national eye banking network, corneal transplantation centres and children’s eye care programmes all over India, in addition to public education through a variety of approaches. As a member of Vision 2020: the Right to Sight India, an international NGO, ORBIS has also been instrumental in drafting a proposal on the prevention of childhood blindness in India. It also aims to open 50 eye care centres for children by 2015, of which 27 have already been opened in 17 states in India.

Major blinding pediatric eye diseases prevalent in the country are corneal scarring due to Vitamin A deficiency, corneal opacity due to various causes in 27 per cent, whole-eye globe lesions (24 per cent), cataract (11 per cent), glaucoma (3 per cent) and also trauma.

Retinopathy of pre-maturity (ROP) and other genetic causes are also emerging causes of childhood blindness in some states of the country like Rajasthan. A study by ORBIS recently revealed that it is a state with a comparatively high prevalence of blindness in India (blindness prevalence rate of 1.55, compared to the national average of 0.8-1.0).
While some of the ailments could be driven by poverty and malnutrition, ageing population and lifestyle changes are likely to be crucial factors in increasing cases of chronic blinding conditions such as diabetic retinopathy in India.

Cataract is also the leading cause of blindness worldwide, described as a white cloudiness in the eye that can cause blindness. However, it can be treated through a simple, inexpensive sight-restoring surgery. In other cases, low vision is mostly due to uncorrected refractive errors (near-sightedness, far sightedness). In most case, normal vision could be restored with eyeglasses, specialists say.

What one actually needs to prevent blindness or other eye ailments is to take some care of your precious eye sight. Adequate doses of Vitamin A, annual eye check-up and resisting the temptation of indulging in traditional medication or self-treatment can help a great deal, say the opthalmologists.

Diabetic patients need to be extra careful of uncontrolled sugar levels as it can put them in high risk of Diabetic Retinopathy. With India facing growing incidence of diabetes in the country due to changing lifestyles, Diabetic Retinopathy is going to be the next serious concern. So it is wise to have a vision to prevent the loss of sight. For: “He that is strucken blind cannot forget,
The precious treasure of his eyesight lost.”
— William Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet

World Sight Day
* India has the highest number of blind persons in the world
* As many as 15 million are blind in India and every year 2 million people join the blind in the country
* India accounts for one fifth of the world’s blind children
* 3.20 lakh children below the age of 16 are blind in India
* 50 per cent of these could have been prevented with care
* India at greater risk of Diabetic Retinopathy due to growing number of diabetic patients

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