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It is time to look after your eyes

Many vision problems that occur later in life could be avoided with early, and often quite simple, preventative measures.

World Retina Week (September 23 to 29) has introduced Eye Care Awareness Month in South Africa.

Claudette Medefindt from Retina South Africa urges each South African to get involved to protect their precious vision by using four methods.

These include regular eye tests, regulating your lifestyle, contacting Retina South Africa and supporting research to treat retinal blindness.

Vision problems are brought on by smoking, overexposure to sunlight, poor diet, a lack of physical fitness or even medication.

“Adapting your lifestyle to avoid this could prevent vision problems that occur later in life. That is why public education is urgently required,” said Medefindt.

“Many people affected by vision loss complain that they wish they had known of the risks in their youth. This would have given them a chance to change their lifestyle in time to prevent or minimise the risks.

“Diabetes and macular degeneration currently affects people at an alarmingly increasing rate and at younger ages. Both of these conditions are asymptotic for years and are sadly only diagnosed when the problems are well established.”

Medefindt also said treatment at this stage is not only less effective, but also more expensive.

“Glaucoma is also asymptotic early in the disease and a simple visit to an optometrist will identify raised pressure in the vitreous while it is still treatable,” said Medefindt.

“Some of these include retinitis pigmentosa, macular dystrophies, usher syndrome and age-related retinal conditions. Retina South Africa is dedicated to finding treatments for these incurable conditions, but they need the support of South Africa to achieve this dream.

“Remarkable therapies are currently being tested in clinical trials and Retina South Africa is determined to make them and the treatments that follow accessible to all South Africans.”

Progress in gene therapy, stem cells and new technologies offers hope for a sighted future for thousands of South Africans.

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