Prevention of Blindness Week India 2024 - Making People Aware About 'Vision'

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By ETV Bharat English Team

Published : Mar 31, 2024, 11:15 PM IST

Prevention of Blindness Week India is celebrated from April 1 to April 7

Prevention of Blindness Week 2024 is celebrated by Centre from April 1 to 7 to make people aware of their eyes. Throughout the week people get education related to health care and eye care.

Hyderabad: Vision, the most dominant of our senses, plays a critical role in every facet and stage of our lives. We take vision for granted, but without vision, we struggle to learn, to walk, to read, to participate in school and to work.

There are 10 million people who are suffering from blindness in India. The worldwide number of blind people is approximately 37 million. The Centre has launched a campaign to educate the population and provide opportunities for blind people by establishing various institutions. Prevention of Blindness Week 2024 is celebrated by Centre from April 1 to 7 to make people aware of their eyes.

History of Prevention of Blindness Week

National Society for the Prevention of Blindness Week (NSPB) was founded in 1960 (Under the Societies Registration Act of 1860) with Jawaharlal Nehru and Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur being its founding patrons. NSPB is an entirely voluntary organisation receiving funds through contributions and donations. NSPB partners actively with Sight Savers, Rotary International, and other large corporate firms. The Centre associated itself with the global initiative, 'Vision 2020: The Right To Sight', launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with the International Agency for Prevention of Blindness Week and other NGOs to eliminate avoidable blindness by 2020.

Definition of blindness

Blindness is the inability to see or a lack of vision. In the most severe cases, there’s an inability to see even light. It also means that you can’t correct your vision with eyeglasses, contact lenses, eye drops or other medical therapy, or surgery. Sudden vision loss is an emergency. It’s important to seek immediate medical help.

Types of Blindness

Aside from total and partial blindness, there are three additional types of blindness: colour blindness, night blindness and snow blindness.

Colour Blindness: Colour blindness is the inability to distinguish different shades of colours or the inability to see some or all colours. Colour blind people cannot tell the difference between certain colours, especially green and red or blue and yellow. Some cannot see any colour at all and view the world in only their shade of gray.

Night Blindness: Night blindness refers to difficulty of seeing at night or in poorly lit areas. Night blindness is not in itself a disorder but a symptom of retinal degradation. Many people with night blindness can see well during the day or in well-lit areas.

Snow Blindness: Snow blindness refers to a loss of vision because of intensive exposure to ultraviolet light. You can still see shapes and movements if you are snow blind, but your vision is permanently reduced. Wearing sunglasses while outdoors can prevent this condition.

Causes

Globally, the leading causes of vision impairment and blindness are:

Refractive errors, cataract, diabetic retinopathy, Glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration. There is substantial variation in the causes of vision impairment between and within countries according to the availability of eye care services, their affordability, and the education of the population.

For example, the proportion of vision impairment attributable to un-operated cataract is higher in low-and middle-income countries. In high income countries, diseases such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration are more common. Among children, congenital cataract is a leading cause of vision impairment in low-income countries, whereas in middle-income countries it is more likely to be retinopathy of prematurity. Uncorrected refractive error remains a leading cause of vision impairment in all countries amongst children and adult populations.

Blindness and visual impairment and their causes in India

Blindness and vision impairment are significant public health challenges in India. The prevalence of blindness and vision impairment in India is disproportionately high compared to developed countries – and it's a significant obstacle to economic development and social progress. The leading causes of blindness and vision impairment in India include cataracts, uncorrected refractive errors, and glaucoma. According to the National Blindness and Visual Impairment Survey, cataract is the leading cause of blindness, accounting for 66.2 per cent of all cases of blindness in India. Uncorrected refractive errors account for 18.6 per cent, and glaucoma for 6.7 per cent. Other causes of blindness and vision impairment include corneal opacities (0.9 per cent), childhood blindness (1.7 per cent), and diabetic retinopathy (3.3 per cent).

Vision impairment significantly impacts individuals and society's productivity, particularly in the working age population. In India, people with vision impairment are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed than those without it. According to the Lancet Global Health Commission on Global Eye Health, visually impaired people in India are 15 per cent less likely to be employed than those without visual impairment.

Those employed earn 20 per cent less than their counterparts without visual impairment. According to a report, the estimated net loss of gross national income due to blindness in India is estimated to be Rs 84,500 crore ($38.4 billion), with a per capita loss of gross national income per blind person of Rs 1,70,624 ($7,756). The cumulative loss of gross national income due to avoidable blindness in the country was estimated to be Rs 11.77 lakh crore ($ 535 billion).

Major Medical Innovations that can help to aid different levels of Blindness

According to the WHO, at least 2.2 billion people around the world suffer from some form of visual impairment which can range from mild levels to total blindness in impact. Advances in artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and machine learning have all helped to accelerate the array of treatments available to those suffering from different levels of blindness.

The Rise of Intelligent Eye-wear

One of the most significant developments of recent years has been in the field of assistive eyewear. One example of this technology in action can be found in the OrCam MyEye Pro, which is a cutting-edge technology that's designed to help completely blind wearers by actively analysing and describing the world around them.

Smart Walking Sticks to Navigate the World

Possessing some similar technological advancements to that of the OrCam, engineers at CU Boulder have managed to utilise artificial intelligence to create a 'smart' walking stick to assist visually impaired users. Designed to replace the traditional walking stick, researchers claim that the smart walking stick could ultimately help blind people to confidently navigate the world around them by assisting them in countless everyday tasks.

Prosthetics that May Evolve to Cure Blindness

While the medtech industry has a habit of over-promising when it comes to developments, the development of a visual prosthesis for blind patients could pave the way for a significant breakthrough in curing vision loss. Dubbed the 'Science Eye', the implant intends to target two forms of serious blindness that have no cure. The technology will evolve to serve as a brain-computer interface (BCI) by transmitting information through the optic nerves of a wearer.

Inherited Blindness Restoration in Chemical Treatment

In a collaboration between the University of California, Irvine School of Biological Sciences and the School of Medicine, researchers have found that it could be possible to partially restore the vision of those suffering from inherited blindness.

Nanotechnology

A collaborative team of researchers with Oregon Health & Science University and Oregon State University have developed an approach that uses lipid nanoparticles — tiny, lab-made balls of fat — to deliver strands of messenger ribonucleic acid, or mRNA, inside the eye. To treat blindness, the mRNA will be designed to create proteins that edit vision-harming gene mutations. The scientists demonstrated that a peptide-covered lipid nanoparticle shell can be directed toward photoreceptor cells in the retina, tissue in the back of the eye that enables sight. As a first proof of concept, mRNA with instructions to make green fluorescent protein was placed inside nanoparticles.

Eye donation

Eye donation is an act of donating one’s eyes after his/her death. It is an act of charity, purely for the benefit of the society and is voluntary. Donated eyes can be used to restore vision in people who are suffering from corneal blindness. The front, clear and transparent tissue of the eye called as cornea can be used to restore vision in a corneal blind person. The other portions of the eye are also used for research and training purposes to develop cures for some of the common eye diseases. From each pair of donated eyes, two blind people will get vision and light in to their life, thus making it more divine.

Tips to Prevent Vision Loss

  • Maintain your blood sugar levels
  • Know your family’s eye health history
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Wear protective eyewear
  • Quit smoking or never start
  • Be cool and wear your shades
  • Give your eyes a rest
  • Clean your hands and your contact lenses—properly
  • Practice workplace eye safety
  • Eat right to protect your sight

Throughout the week people get education related to health care and eye care. To make the campaign successful, the various departments, publication houses, and NGOs should have to work together. Eye donation is the most effective way to provide real support to blind people as well as bring a permanent light to their dark lives. The campaign aims to pay attention to various risk factors that lead to eye injuries that can cause visual impairment.

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