The key word? Prevention

Superficiality, misinformation and confusion emerge from an analysis by representatives of the associations that support actions in defense of eyesight health

The strategic action promoted at World Sight Day will be enriched again this year by the participation of the Italian Ophthalmology Society, IAPB Italia Onlus-Agenzia internazionale per la prevenzione della cecità (the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness) and the associations of eye care professionals.


"World Sight Day is an essential opportunity to remind everyone of the need for regular eyesight tests to ensure that we will see well throughout our lifetime" stated Matteo Piovella, President of the Italian Ophthalmology Society, a nonprofit organization founded in 1879 that institutionally represents Italy's 7000 ophthalmologists. "It may appear to be self-evident, but in reality it has been demonstrated that in Italy there is a lot of confusion about the need to prevent and treat diseases of the eye: most people do not know the difference between an optician and an ophthalmologist and they believe that having their eyesight tested to obtain a driver's license, or taking a visual acuity test, means that they have had a complete eyesight checkup that will ensure their eyes are in good health". Piovella reiterated that «eyesight must be tested by a specialist at birth, by the age of three, during the first years of school, and at the onset of puberty. The critical age is 40 and after 55 a visit roughly once a year is recommended. Tests by eye care specialists not only show any vision defects but, and above all, they are able to diagnose all types of eye diseases, even those that have not shown any symptoms for many years. Healthcare is increasingly oriented toward prevention and our eyes can benefit enormously from regular testing. Glaucoma, maculopathy, cataract or diabetic retinopathy are strange and demanding words, but they are disorders that that can affect sight to the point of low vision or no vision at all. Eyes begin to age at 40 (we have to wear glasses for reading) and they must last for twice as many years".
"Problems due to insufficient retinal microcirculation which accelerates ageing" – concluded the president of SOI – "are responsible for diseases of the macula that prevent one in three people over the age of 75 from reading a normal bank statement. Prevention and caring for our eyes is fundamental. Over the past 10 years, there has been exceptional progress in ophthalmology: let us be aware of it and make use of all the opportunities for safeguarding sight, the most precious gift that is responsible for 84% of our relationships with the outside world, the value of which is only fully appreciated when we no longer have it".


"Preserving eye health improves life. Take care of your eyes", stated Giuseppe Castronovo, President of IAPB Italia Onlus, "it is fundamental. Regular eyesight checkups are indispensable if we want to preserve a sense that is, as Aristotle said, the one we love above all others. Early diagnosis can help to save our eyes. Our efforts are aimed, therefore, at preventing blindness, a tragedy that is often avoidable. On October 11, 2012, the Chamber of Deputies will be the location of the official national presentation of World Sight Day in the presence of the country's highest authorities. There will be free sight tests in about twenty Italian cities and information material will be distributed in almost seventy cities. Eye health information, access to screenings in our mobile ophthalmic units and scientific research are the three pillars of our activities that will give a practical meaning to the word "prevention".


Free eyesight tests will be available from Thursday, October 11, to Saturday, October 13, at the hundreds of Optical Centers displaying the special posters in the city and province of Milan. "We believe strongly in the importance of shared initiatives such as those that take us to the front line alongside other associations this year", stated Giulio Velati, president of Federottica, who represents the sector coalition formed by the Italian Roll of Optometrists, Assogruppi Ottica, Federgruppi Ottica and Federottica. "The network of optical centers that is so well established in the territory is certainly a fundamental tool for the prevention campaign that has been promoted thanks to the collaboration with CDV. Moreover, World Sight Day demonstrates that a shared objective like safeguarding vision wellbeing can encourage correct transversal and complementary collaboration by different main players".


If prevention and checkups are the key words in the culture of safeguarding sight in Italy, they are even more so in low-income or developing countries where frequently really very little would be required to prevent blindness and improve the eye health of children and adults. This is the direction being taken by the important CBM action.


"In 80% of cases, blindness is a tragedy the causes of which can be prevented and treated by activating prevention and treatment programs", stated Prof. Mario Angi, President of CBM Italia. "Prevention that would lead to enormous improvements in the quality of life of disabled people in addition to savings for everyone in terms of lower social and economic costs. This is why we cannot waste time: with a little help from everyone we can beat blindness and vision impairment in developing countries".


The prevention and promotion actions by CBM also involve Italy. There are numerous appointments: Thursday, October 11, the protagonist will be Cesare Picco's piano in the evocative atmosphere of "Blind Date" at the Teatro Dal Verme; a special tram hosting the photography exhibition "Apriamo gli occhi" (let's open our eyes) will cross Milan to the accompaniment of a DJ set by Daniele Bossari; the fight against blindness campaign with text messages of solidarity to 45502 will be advertised on the main national television and radio networks and inaugurated with the "Luci in bici" (Lights by bicycle) bicycle ride in the center of Milan on Wednesday, October 10. These are the main stages of the XIII World Sight Day promoted by CBM Italia Onlus – the most highly accredited non-government organization for the fight against avoidable blindness in developing countries.