Public Health Issues
As I have tried to communicate in the main body of the text, environmental factors can play a very important role in eye health. Adverse environmental factors can accelerate a disease process, whilst beneficial circumstances may act to minimise the expression of defective genes.
There is much that can be done to prevent eye problems in the general community. It behoves on government authorities to work in conjunction with the eyecare professions to increase public awareness of the significant effect that environmental factors have on eye health. As government authorities become more active in seeking advice that is based on the experience of eyecare professionals, widespread promotion of this knowledge and advice will most certainly benefit the public.
In a developed city, there are currently several areas of rather serious concern to public eye health. The public needs to be better informed about the issues below. These issues, including details of the necessary preventive measures, are dealt with in the main body of text.
- Sun damage is strongly implicated in Pterygium, Cataract, and ARM.
- Diet is strongly implicated in Diabetic Retinopathy and ARM. Stress is implicated in Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma.
- Poor visual hygiene, especially in the elderly, is now increasingly being found to be implicated in Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma.
- Microbial components spreading from the nasal/sinus areas are strongly implicated in causing a vast array of infections and hypersensitivity reactions, involving the eyes and surrounding structures, as well as other sites such as the ears, throat, chest, and even brain, alimentary tract, and other tissues.
- Eye safety measures such as the wearing of sunglasses and hats for sun protection and goggles to prevent accidents at work and around the home.
- A good diet in infants is essential for normal visual development. In adults, poor diet and a harmful lifestyle not only have negative effects on the general health but also lead to long term deterioration in eye health.
- Visual hygiene measures must be promoted if we are to prevent myopia from reaching epidemic levels such as those in Hong Kong high school children where close to 80% of these children are myopic.
- Nasal hygiene must be promoted to help prevent infective and other inflammatory diseases in the vicinity of the eyes.
- Regular eye examinations are important to detect early changes in the eyes especially in infants and persons of middle age and older.
A further area of frequent concern to the public, although its detailed study is incumbent on the eyecare professions, is the refractive condition of astigmatism. Why some children's astigmatism reduces, as they get older but not in others, and why its correction not infrequently leads to eyestrain symptoms in people of all ages, are important issues that should be dealt with. To facilitate this, a better understanding by the eyecare professions is needed of the currently "ignored" physiological mechanism that controls the eye's astigmatism i.e. meridional accommodation.
In a nutshell, a healthy lifestyle (including optimal stress levels, a nutritious diet and adequate exercise), eye safety (particularly sun protection), visual hygiene (proper use of the eyes to prevent eyestrain and myopia), nasal hygiene and regular eye examinations, will highly optimise one's chances of maintaining good vision and healthy eyes.
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