February is Low Vision Awareness Month, advocating for increased awareness about low vision conditions. Low vision conditions include age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, cataract, and diabetic retinopathy.
What is low vision?
Low vision is a term commonly used to mean partial sight, or sight that isn’t fully correctable with glasses, contact lenses, surgery, or medications. This condition is beyond the typical loss of vision that occurs with aging, and in fact, it can impact people of all ages.
Low vision is often caused by these conditions:
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is a progressive eye condition. The disease affects the macula (central area of the retina) of the eye, where our sharpest central vision occurs. It leaves only dim images or black holes at the center of a person’s vision, leaving the individual with only the outermost, peripheral vision.
- Glaucoma. Glaucoma is a group of conditions that causes damage to the major nerve of the eye called the optic nerve, part of the central nervous system that carries visual information from the eye to the brain. Pressure builds up inside the eye due to an imbalance of the fluid produced in the eye and the amount of fluid drained. Elevated pressure causes optic nerves fibers to die, leading to vision loss.
- Cataract. Cataract is a disease that causes blurred vision. This happens when the eye’s lens becomes increasingly opaque, creating pinpoint vision and a feeling of continual fog. Common causes of cataract include aging, diabetes, injury, and cortisone medication.
- Diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. The blood vessels can swell, close or leak fluid inside the eye, stopping blood from passing through normally. If the retina doesn’t receive the blood it needs to function properly, vision is affected.
The most common causes of low vision in the United States are age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Worldwide, cataract, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy, are four of the five primary causes of vision loss, affecting 120 million people. And there are millions more people living with condition that need routine eye care services to prevent or delay vision loss.
Getting a yearly eye exam increases the chances of early detection and diagnosis of low vision conditions. But what if a professional ophthalmologist isn’t readily accessible?
How OPC address low vision conditions
Through its comprehensive eye care programs, OPC combines comprehensive eye exams and eye health care services within existing health systems in Francophone African countries. OPC’s work includes training eye health professionals, like ophthalmologists, nurses, and community health workers, and raising awareness about preventing eye diseases through advocacy and education activities.
Defining Comprehensive Eye Care
Comprehensive eye exams are a series of quality tests and an examination conducted by an eye health professional with a patient experiencing a vision problem.
Comprehensive eye health care services include eye health advocacy, blindness prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all relevant eye diseases and rehabilitation of those with irreversible blindness and low vision.
For over 40 years, OPC has worked with local, national, and international partners to bring inclusive, sustainable eye health care services to everyone, especially the most vulnerable communities that are often overlooked in access to quality care.
As a result of OPC’s programs, millions of people gained increased access to quality eye health care services. They have been able to get eye exams, glasses, and sight-saving surgeries at an affordable cost.
You can help by making a donation to support OPC’s work. Every gift makes a difference in our efforts to prevent avoidable blindness. In honor of Low Vision Awareness Month, spread the word on social media and be sure to follow OPC on Facebook and LinkedIn. And you can learn more about OPC’s work and subscribe to our newsletter so you never miss an update from OPC.