By Olga Aprianti Lee, SIECRC

World Sight Day is the most important advocacy and communications event on the eye health calendar. It is a time for eye care professionals to engage with the world at large – a patient’s family, those who have never gotten a dilated eye examination, diabetic individuals and many others. This year, World Sight Day fell on 12 October 2017.

Dr Au Eong Kah Guan, Medical Director and Senior Consultant Ophthalmologist from International Eye Cataract Retina Centre, marked World Sight Day 2017 by sharing 8 tips on how to protect and preserve one’s vision with staff from Novartis (Singapore) Pte Ltd on 12 October 2017. The educational session was conducted in Mapletree Business City. Novartis is a global healthcare company head-quartered in Switzerland that provides solutions to a wide range of medical needs of patients worldwide.

During the talk, titled “8 Tips to Protect Your Vision”, Dr Au Eong shared helpful pearls to preserve one’s eye health. Many of the tips are relatively simple measures such as quitting smoking as smokers have a 3- to 4-fold increased risk of age-related macular degeneration and 2- to 3-fold increased risk of cataract. Age-related macular degeneration is the most common cause of blindness in developed countries while cataract is the leading cause of blindness worldwide. He also highlighted the potential benefits to the eye from other healthy lifestyle habits including regular exercise and a diet rich in green leafy vegetables, fruits and fish.

By maintaining a normal blood pressure and controlling one’s diabetes, the risks of getting eye conditions such as hypertensive retinopathy, retinal artery occlusion, retinal vein occlusion and diabetic retinopathy can also be reduced. Protecting the eyes from ultraviolet (UV) rays by using sunglasses or a wide-brimmed hat can also reduce the risk of certain eye conditions such as pinguecula, pterygium, cataract and age-related macular degeneration. Dr Au Eong also stressed the importance of wearing safety eyewear during work and sports to prevent potentially blinding eye injuries.

Last but not least, Dr Au Eong emphasized the importance for everyone to go for dilated eye examinations regularly even if they do not have any visual complaint as many eye diseases often have no symptoms in their early stages. Through annual eye examinations, these conditions can be detected and treated early, leading to better treatment outcomes.

Dr Au Eong peppered his talk with anecdotes and patient stories from his vast experience in the field to illustrate his various points. He also presented copies of ‘When Daddy’s Vision Becomes “Smoky”: A Story on the Lessor Known Dangers of Cigarette Smoking’ to 5 lucky participants who could correctly answer questions from his talk. ‘When Daddy’s Vision Becomes “Smoky”’ is a beautifully illustrated and easy-to-understand book written to raise the awareness of the ill effects of cigarette smoking from an early age through storytelling.

Besides Dr Au Eong, a patient with age-related macular degeneration also eloquently shared with the participants the impact of the eye condition on her family and her personally.

The educational event was very well-received by the participants who asked many questions to the two speakers during the question and answer session.