Thursday will mark World Sight Day, a global initiative co-ordinated by Vision 2020. This year the campaign will focus on avoidable blindness and the organisers have highlighted worrying statistics with approximately 285 million people worldwide living with low vision, 39 million of those are blind. Yet 80% of visual impairment is avoidable, meaning it is treatable or preventable.
Cataracts and trachoma are the two main causes of avoidable blindness in the world. Thankfully in the UK trachoma is very rare and a course of antibiotics usually deals with it, however this bacterial infection remains the leading cause of infectious blindness worldwide.
Cataracts, however, are a very real problem in the UK. A condition that usually develops in older age, cataracts affect millions of people in the UK. Blurred or clouded vision is the most common symptom of cataracts, however an optometrist has the technology available to identify the very early stages of the condition even before the early signs noticed by the individual. This is one of the reasons we are so keen that people make a point of having a regular eye test. Even if you think your eyes are fine and your vision hasn’t changed, we encourage all our patients to make sure they see us at least every two years, ideally every year for those over 65.
The treatment of cataracts is usually a very straightforward operation however if they are left untreated they can result in permanent loss of vision.
We are very fortunate that we live in a country with very advanced eye care. So many in poorer countries do not have the expertise, diagnosis and treatment available. In the UK it is available so we need to make sure awareness improves so preventable blindness is prevented.