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World sight day message

By Dr. Rose Azuike

“If you have a family history of a chronic eye disease and you haven’t done a comprehensive eye check in the past one year, going for one today can be a sight-saving decision”.

Dr. Rose Azuike

World sight day is a day set aside globally to advocate for the prevention of avoidable blindness and raise awareness of the importance of paying attention to your eye health. Today, my focus is on one of the major risk factors for avoidable blindness – family history of chronic eye diseases.

Chronic eye diseases are a group of eye conditions that many people dread. They last for a long time, as long as one year to a lifetime, and are often not curable. Most of them like glaucoma, diabetic eye diseases, hypertensive eye complications, and macular degeneration are sight-threatening and require consistent treatment and care to reduce the risk of vision loss.

Having a family history of chronic eye diseases is one of the strongest risk factors for developing them. This means that if someone in your family, for instance, your father, mother, brother, sister, grandparents, or other close relatives has them, your chance of getting them is high. This risk is even higher than that posed by aging as people with a family history of these diseases tend to develop them at much younger ages than others.

Unfortunately, chronic eye diseases do not show symptoms early. By the time you notice that something is wrong with your eyes, some damage has already been done to your vision. Another thing is that the damage done to vision is often not reversible, except in the case of a condition like cataract in which vision loss can be reversed with the surgical removal of the clouded lens in the eye.

While it is known that family history plays a role in the development of chronic eye problems, there is little awareness of the fact that these diseases can occur at much younger ages than usual in people who have the risk. This is why a lot of young people below 50 years are taken unawares. In spite of their parents and/or grandparents having chronic eye diseases, they assume these diseases occur only in old age and are surprised when they get such diagnoses.

This is why I am taking advantage of today, being World Sight Day, to bring to your consciousness the fact that irrespective of your age, your family history plays a huge role in determining whether or not you will develop chronic eye diseases. True, these diseases occur more in older people. However, it is important you know that there are no old people’s disease, when family history is involved. I also want you to know that annual eye checks are important for the early detection and prevention of vision loss from these diseases.

Therefore, if you have a family history of a chronic eye disease and you haven’t done a comprehensive eye check in the past one year, going for one today can be a sight-saving decision. Doing so greatly increases the likelihood that any eye problems will be detected early and this will give you a chance to start treatment on time and prevent vision loss. Even if no eye problems are detected, you will no longer work with assumptions, but with evidence that for now you have no chronic eye problems.  This can be reassuring and will keep your mind at rest on issues concerning your eye health.

Your vision is key to independent living. Do not let a family related eye health problem take that away from you. Go check your eyes today!