Message From Her Excellency Paula-Mae Weekes ORTT, President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, On World Sight Day 2022

World Sight Day is an opportunity to learn about the issues of avoidable blindness and vision impairment and, in keeping with the 2022 theme “Love Your Eyes”, take concrete steps to protect, maintain and prioritise eye health.

According to the World Health Organisation, 2.2 billion people globally have a vision impairment or blindness due to issues such as unoperated cataract and uncorrected refractive error. Locally, according to a 2013/14 study carried out by the National Eye Survey of Trinidad and Tobago, the leading causes of blindness and vision impairment in adults over 40 are glaucoma, cataract, and diabetic retinopathy (a complication of diabetes).

At least one billion, or half the total global cases of blindness or vision impairment, could have been averted or addressed with timely and adequate treatment. Given that blindness and vision impairment can negatively affect all aspects of life, including education and employment opportunities, social participation and mental health, it is critical that we employ vigilance and consistency when looking after our eyes.

Regular eye tests, at least once every two years, and more frequently if already experiencing eye problems, are advisable. Practical, everyday measures such as the 20-20-20 rule, which involves looking away from one’s screen every 20 minutes to focus on an object 20 feet away, for a total of 20 seconds, contribute to limiting eye strain. People with diseases such as diabetes or hypertension which can impair or damage eyesight would do well to adopt lifestyle changes to keep them under control. Although not all eye diseases are preventable, there are effective interventions, for example, cataract surgery, which can address common eye conditions and even retore vision. Treatment should be sought as early as possible to avoid further or irreversible vision loss.

According to an axiom frequently attributed to American founding father Benjamin Franklin: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. On this World Sight Day, it would be to our benefit if we made caring for our eyes a priority and take the practical measures needed to safeguard and preserve our eye health.

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