With the theme of ‘love your eyes’ and the messaging of ‘everyone counts’, the ask this World Sight Day (October 14) is simple — look after your eyes well and ensure that there is universal and comprehensive eye health service available to the most vulnerable in our communities.
Dr Parikshit Gogate, president of Maharashtra Ophthalmology Society, said that people with glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy have missed out on regular eye examinations due to Covid-19. “In the last 19 months, a lot of public health programmes have suffered. Cataract surgery in most public and NGO hospitals took a back seat. Paediatric eye surgeries were postponed as the government had to ration oxygen supply and elective surgical procedures became a casualty,” he said.
“At the Maharashtra Ophthalmology Society, we had planned to examine tribal children at the Ashram Shalas (residential schools for tribal children) but hostels and schools have remained closed,” he said.
According to city-based ophthalmologist Dr Aditya Kelkar, they were noting a rise in cases of dry eye syndrome and eye strain. “We have also observed patients with glaucoma and retinal detachments neglecting their conditions leading to irreversible loss of vision,” he said.
Dr Kelkar has advised people watching screens for a long time to follow a 20-20-20 rule – this means after 20 minutes of screen time, break for 20 seconds and also keep a distance of 20 inches from the screen.
RN Mohanty, CEO, Sightsavers India, part of a global development organisation that has been working in the country since 1966 to eliminate avoidable blindness, said that in accordance with this year’s theme `love your sight’, people should be encouraged to get an eye check-up done.
in India, there were an estimated 270 million people with vision loss in 2020. Of these around 53 per cent were women.
Vulnerable communities that need sight-restoring treatments should have quality and affordable eye health services. “If we encourage seeking eye health and train adequate healthcare workers, there is going to be a phenomenal change to reduce and eventually consistently eliminate preventable blindness,” Mohanty said.