MANILA,  MARCH 24, 2010
(STAR) The Philippine Academy of Ophthalmology (PAO) and Novartis Healthcare Philippines are implementing a public information campaign to promote eye health awareness among Filipinos.

As part of this campaign, the PAO and Novartis share with the general public the following 10 must-know eye care and blindness prevention tips:

1. Women of childbearing age should get the rubella vaccine.

Pregnant women who contract rubella or German measles during their first trimester of pregnancy can transmit the virus to their unborn child and cause congenital rubella syndrome. Infants affected with the syndrome develop cataracts (opacities in the lenses of the eyes), congenital heart disease and deafness. If you are planning to bear children, rubella vaccination is a simple and inexpensive way to protect your baby from a lifetime of disease and disability.

2. If you suspect your child has vision problems, bring him or her to an eye doctor for proper refraction and screening for amblyopia.

Uncorrected errors of refraction (EOR) can lead to irreversible amblyopia in children. Amblyopia is a form of “functional blindness” in which an otherwise normal eye can no longer see well because of prolonged neglect of an uncorrected EOR, especially after and beyond the critical period for visual development, which is the first six to eight years of age. Your child may have an error of refraction if he or she squints when trying to focus at a distant image, prefers to watch TV at close range, has misaligned eyes, and complains of headaches after prolonged use of the eyes, e.g. after school.

3. Wear ultraviolet (UV)-protected sunglasses when exposed to the sun.

The eyes, like the skin, age faster when exposed to the sun. UV and sunlight exposure can increase your risk for eye diseases such as cataracts and pterygium (wedge-shaped growth on the cornea), which can require surgery.

4. Don’t abuse your eyes.

Avoid reading in the dark or inside moving vehicles, which can cause eyestrain. Rest your eyes periodically during prolonged computer use.

5. At work and at play, think eye safety.

Never let your children play or work with pointed objects without adult supervision. Sharp pencils, darts, scissors and other objects have left so many children blind. Make sure your child’s school chemistry laboratory is equipped with protective goggles. If any chemical gets in your or your child’s eyes, immediately wash the affected eye with copious amounts of clean water. Wear protective goggle whenever doing any carpentry, welding or masonry work. Do not attempt to remove any foreign body in the eye with a strand of hair or a pair of tweezers; consult an eye doctor for any foreign body removal.

6. Do not use traditional eye remedies such as herbal extracts, breastmilk and urine; these can seriously harm the eyes.

All fluids have the potential for bacterial contamination. Herbal extracts may contain fungi while urine may be infected with the bacterium that causes gonorrhea. Consult an eye doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment of eye ailments.

7. Control your blood pressure, blood sugar and blood cholesterol.

Because the eyes have a rich network of blood vessels, they can be adversely affected by systemic vascular illnesses like hypertension, diabetes mellitus and atherosclerosis. Blockage of arteries and veins supplying the eye can cause hemorrhages within and death of extremely sensitive areas of the eye such as the retina. Such damage is often irreversible. All patients with diabetes must consult an ophthalmologist or retina specialist for early detection and treatment of diabetic retinopathy (damage to the retina caused by diabetes complications).

8. Consult an ophthalmologist once you turn 40. Certain diseases that can cause blindness, such as glaucoma, have no signs or symptoms.

Visual acuity in glaucoma patients often remains good until the very end when the field of vision is reduced to a mere “tunnel.” As glaucoma progresses, the eye’s optic nerve suffers a slow death, causing irreversible damage. To rule out glaucoma, consult an ophthalmologist who will examine your optic nerve and check your eyes’ intraocular pressure. Early diagnosis and treatment is crucial in preventing glaucoma complications.

9. When advised to undergo eye surgery, seek a second opinion.

This advice holds true for all major surgeries, which have inherent risks and complications. Seek a second opinion to confirm the need for surgery.

10. Check the credentials of your eye doctor. Consult a sub-specialist if needed and available. Finally, choose an eye doctor whom you trust and feel comfortable with.

For more information about eye care and blindness prevention, contact the PAO Secretariat at (02) 813-5318, or send an e-mail to secretariat_pao@globe­lines.com.ph or visit the PAO website at www.pao.org.ph. You may also send regular mail to Unit 815, Medical Plaza Makati Condominium, Amorsolo corner De la Rosa Sts., Legaspi Village 1229, Makati City.

Novartis Healthcare Philippines is a PAO partner in promoting eye health awareness among Filipinos. A leader in eye health care, it conducts public awareness campaigns to help the general public prevent, detect and manage common eye conditions.

One of the company’s products is hypromellose (brand name GenTeal), an over-the-counter eye drop designed to provide hydrating relief for dry eye symptoms.

Unlike other artificial tears that use conventional preservatives which can damage the eyes, GenTeal contains Gen Aqua, a breakthrough preservative system that protects the eyes.

Another Novartis eye health product is a multivitamin and mineral supplement (Vitalux Plus) proven to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and delay its progression. AMD is a common cause of blindness among the elderly.

Join the Novartis Eye Care Caravan held every Saturday and Sunday of March at Watsons Personal Care Stores in the following SM Malls: North Edsa, Megamall, Makati and Mall of Asia. Avail yourself of free dry eye and AMD screening conducted by PAO specialists.

Other activities include free wet sampling of hypromellose (GenTeal) eye drops and multivitamin and mineral supplement (Vitalux Plus)

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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