* Focus attention on global eye health issues and encourage early detection of eye diseases
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) are joining the international community to observe World Sight Day 2021 to focus attention on global eye health issues and to encourage the public to go for sight tests, examinations and screening for early detection of preventable eye defects.
World Sight Day (WSD), co-ordinated by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), is an international day of awareness, held annually on the second Thursday of October to focus attention on the global issue of eye health. The WSD is being celebrated today under the theme 'Love Your Eyes', with the call to action being 'Everyone Counts'.
Dr Kholoud al-Mutawa, head of the non-communicable diseases section at the Ministry of Public Health, said: “The MoPH, in collaboration with Hamad Medical Corporation, has launched an awareness campaign as part of celebrating World Sight Day with the aim of raising awareness on the importance of taking care of the eye health for all age groups.
"The campaign includes dissemination of awareness messages and educational advice related to promoting eye health and how to prevent various diseases that may affect all age groups, in addition to emphasising the need to visit ophthalmologists for early screening to detect any disease that may impair vision in the future.”
Dr al-Mutawa added that there are at least 2.2bn people around the world who are visually impaired, including at least 1bn people who could have been prevented from being so or who did not have the chance to be treated. She pointed out that most visually impaired and blind people are over the age of 50.
“For World Sight Day 2021, everyone counts and that is why we are calling on everyone to be aware of their own eye health because our eyes can tell us so much about our general health. Also, whoever is able should book a sight test, an exam or a screening in order to detect any eye abnormality early to prevent eye disease,” cautioned Dr Deena Shafwan Zeedan, consultant Oculofacial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeries, Ophthalmology Department, HMC.
She explained that the theme for this year, ‘Love Your Eyes’, is important as our eyes have been working hard during the pandemic. “We have been indoors, in front of our screens, and may have missed our eye test appointments. Now more than ever, we need to protect and prioritise our eyesight,” she said, adding that there are simple things that an individual can do to prevent developing serious eye issues such as taking screen breaks and getting an eye test. |
“The 20-20-20 rule helps your eyes relax when you’re looking at a screen for a long time. This means, every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to look 20ft (6m) away from the screen. In addition, and most important, is getting an eye test to identify eye conditions such as glaucoma before they have an effect on your sight. The earlier an eye condition is identified, the easier it is to treat,” Dr Zeedan advised.
The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness says short-sightedness is on the rise across the world with half the world’s population projected to be short-sighted by 2050. The World Health Organisation also says globally at least 1bn people have near or distance vision impairment that could be prevented or has yet to be addressed.
“Vision impairment affects people of all ages, with the majority being over the age of 50. Vision impairment and blindness 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,” she pointed out.
According to Dr Zeedan, unoperated cataract and uncorrected refractive error are the leading causes of vision impairment. “Other causes such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, infectious diseases of the eye, and trauma, however, cannot be ignored and need to be addressed. These leading causes of vision should be taken seriously, which is why everyone has to make sure they get their eyes checked at least once a year. In addition, poor eye health leads to an increased risk of mortality. Children with a vision impairment are up to five times less likely to be in formal education and often achieve poorer outcomes,” she added.
Dr Zeedan stressed the importance of regular eye checks for all members of the community and highlighted the public health sector’s commitment to delivering high-quality ophthalmology services to patients.
Dr Shadi al-Ashwal, an ophthalmologist at the MoPH, said most eye diseases can be either prevented or treated easily. Recently, the diabetic retinopathy screening protocol in Qatar has been developed and improved through new equipment called Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT).
Dr al-Ashwal advises all diabetic patients to get a comprehensive eye examination from their ophthalmologist at least once a year and to check their blood sugar regularly.