Much of the content we publish on SelectSpecs.com – and our blog – tends to be of a light-hearted nature, celebrating our wide range of glasses and sunglasses and the fact we offer the cheapest prescription glasses in the world.
In this article however, we explore the serious matter of preventable blindness and low vision, ahead of World Sight Day 2013 (Oct 10), and beyond. This year's event will focus on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) new action plan, which aims to tackle preventable blindness and visual impairment around the globe between 2014 and 2019.
At the end of this article, you’ll discover how SelectSpecs can help you keep your own eye and visual health in check.
Today approximately 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired: 39 million are completely blind, while the remaining 246 million struggle with other forms of low vision. With around 90% of the world’s visually impaired living in developing countries, it’s often assumed that infectious disease is the primary cause behind these statistics.
The fact is, however, that blindness resulting from infectious disease has decreased dramatically over the past 20 years. WHO now estimates that 80% of all visual impairment could be prevented, or cured, through the provision of the same eye tests and corrective eyewear that populations of more affluent countries enjoy.
Definition of 'low vision':
It is important to clarify the medical definition of ‘low vision’. According to the International Classification of Diseases, there are four main categories of visual function (last revised in 2006):
'Low vision' is a term used to describe the ‘moderate’ and ‘severe visual impairment’ categories in combination.
The fact most cases of low vision and blindness are preventable or curable is the key focus of this year's World Sight Day (Oct 10): an annual advocacy day for the awareness, and prevention, of visual impairment. The theme this year (and for the foreseeable future) is 'universal eye health', with a focus on WHO's new action plan to tackle preventable blindness and visual impairment around the globe between 2014 and 2019.
The universal eye health initiative will encourage personal eye care, with a primary call to action of "get your eyes tested". Those looking to get involved in the promotion of this message are encouraged to blindfold famous statues and monuments, to remind others of the risks associated with not undergoing regular sight tests. It is hoped this promotion of eye examinations will not only prevent low vision – and eventual possible blindness - caused by refractive errors, but diabetes, cataracts and other causes too.
Refractive eyesight errors – which prevent one, or both, eyes from focusing clearly – are very common eye disorders which result in blurred vision, which can be so severe that significant visual limitation results. The three most common forms of refractive errors are:
Combined, these visual errors are thought to be responsible for 43% of the world’s visual impairment.
The table below indicates how these conditions doubled the global burden of blindness and visual impairment in 2007:
While refractive errors cannot be prevented, they can be alleviated with corrective glasses once an eye examination has been conducted. Refractive laser eye surgery is also possible, but this is would be an expensive method of correcting preventable sight problems worldwide. Surgery also involves some risks, such as permanent double-vision and dry-eye conditions. It should also be noted that laser optical correction is often not suitable for individuals with glaucoma or diabetes (conditions which in themselves can causes problems with vision).
WHO has stated how uncorrected refractive eyesight errors can lead to visual impairment and a low quality of life many times over the years:
"A simple sight test and eyeglasses, or contact lenses, could make a dramatic difference to the lives of more than 150 million people who are suffering from poor vision. Children fail at school, adults are unable to work and families are pushed into poverty as a result of uncorrected visual impairment."
"Refractive errors […] affect a large proportion of the population worldwide, irrespective of age, sex and ethnic group. Such refractive errors can be easily diagnosed, measured and corrected with spectacles or other refractive corrections to attain normal vision. If, however, they are not corrected or the correction is inadequate, refractive errors become a major cause of low vision and even blindness"
SelectSpecs plans to get involved in several charitable initiatives for World Sight Day 2013 – and later on this year – to help support WHO’s campaign and increase awareness of preventable eyesight problems.
SelectSpecs strongly recommends you undergo regular eye examinations in order to ensure clear vision and to avoid any potential future problems with your eyesight.
Some consumers are reluctant to go for regular eye tests due to the costs involved. However, it is worth noting that having an eye test with a high street opticians and then requesting a copy of your prescription so that you can buy your eyewear from SelectSpecs can save you a significant amount of money. In fact, our budget prescription glasses are so cheap that buying two, or even three, pairs for the same cost as a high street optician’s cheapest pair is often possible – great for your eyes and your wallet!
Additionally, anyone who uses a computer VDU (visual display unit) regularly as part of their job can obtain a free eye examination voucher from their employer – employers have a legal obligation to care for the visual health of their staff.
If you live in the UK and you’d like SelectSpecs to conduct your eye examination, you can book one with our optometrists in our flagship store in Westgate-on-Sea, Kent. Our state of the art, 3D Optical Coherence Tomography testing system (3D OCT) is able to easily detect a wide number of conditions including refractions, glaucoma, age related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy. You can contact our store by calling 01843 830379.
Click here to discover SelectSpecs' range of prescription glasses – the cheapest in the world – or explore our list of references below to learn more.