The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released a fact sheet about visual impairment worldwide. Not surprisingly, of the 285 million people with some type of visual impairment worldwide, 90% are in developing countries.
However, 80% of all vision problems can be prevented or cured. Remarkably, lack of appropriate glasses accounts for 43% of those with vision problems alone. Another 33% struggle with visual impairment stemming from cataracts and could benefit from access to surgery.
What are the WHO and other organizations doing about these problems? One success story concerns onchocerciasis related blindness. This parasite is carried by black flies which breed near rivers earning the moniker “river blindness”. Treatment programs in Sub-Saharan Africa and South America have considerably reduced this condition by providing anti-parasitic medication twice yearly to those in susceptible areas. Untreated, this condition causes intense itching and inflammation of the eyelids along with severe glaucoma.
Another success story is with Trachoma. This eyelid infection is caused by Chlamydia from flies or contact with others who are infected. If left untreated, the result is severe scarring of the eyelids and damage to the cornea causing blindness. A single dose of Azithromycin antibiotic is effective for this condition and is part of many worldwide health projects.
Other projects include children’s clinics to provide glasses and surgical access for underserved populations in remote locations. All these worthwhile endeavors still have a way to go before the good vision we all take for granted is more widely available.
Dr. Martha Jay is a board certified Ophthalmologist (Eye Physician & Surgeon) practicing at Lakeshore Eye Care Professionals with offices in Mequon and Saukville, Wisconsin.
For more eye care information, call 262-241-1919 or visit www.LakeShoreVision.com.