NY, Oct. 12, 2006 – Every five seconds, someone in the world goes blind. Yet 75 percent of these cases can be prevented or cured. And while the overwhelming majority of avoidable blindness occurs in the developing world, people in the
United States are in no way immune.
These are some of the messages nonprofit ORBIS International and leading eye care company Alcon Inc. are delivering today on World Sight Day, a global observance to stimulate greater public awareness of eye health issues. World Sight Day is coordinated by “VISION 2020 – The Right to Sight,” a joint initiative of the World Health Organization and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. ORBIS is a founding member of VISION 2020.
“Although ORBIS works in developing countries, where 90 percent of the world’s blind live, few Americans realize that blindness is an ever-increasing problem in the
United States,” said
Eugene Helveston, M.D., ORBIS ophthalmologist-in-chief. “More than 3 million Americans aged 40 and older are currently blind or visually impaired. As the American population ages, these numbers are projected to double over the next 20 years and dramatically challenge our health care delivery system.”
The majority of blinding conditions can be avoided by taking simple steps to protect one’s eyesight – from damage by the sun’s rays, the emergence of cataracts, or the development of difficult to recognize conditions such as glaucoma. Besides early detection, ORBIS and Alcon encourage consumers to take these basic steps to safeguard their eyesight.
- Wear sunglasses with UV protection, because ultraviolet rays cause the same damage to eye tissue as they do to skin. This damage may result in cataracts – a highly treatable form of blindness.
- Wear safety goggles when using power tools or performing tasks where a flying object could strike the eye.
- People with diabetes should have regular checkups to guard against diabetic retinopathy, a frequent complication that damages the blood vessels inside the retina and which is becoming one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide.
- Because one in forty individuals over age 40 have glaucoma, adults should have eye pressure checked at least once every two years. Glaucoma can cause irreversible damage to the optic nerve and retinal fibers if left untreated.
- Those over age 55 should pay close attention to blurring or distortion of objects at the center of their field of vision, which could be a sign of macular degeneration – the leading cause of blindness in developed countries.
“Routine eye exams are one of the best ways to protect your vision. Yet, in the developing countries even the most basic medical help can be out of reach,” said ORBIS board member and Alcon, Inc., CFO Jacqualyn Fouse. “Together, Alcon and ORBIS are developing practical solutions to the overwhelming and devastating problem of unnecessary blindness. As a global health care company, Alcon is proud to partner with ORBIS to help raise awareness of avoidable blindness – both here and abroad – and gain support for programs to prevent millions more from needlessly losing their sight.”
Consumers are encouraged to learn more about eye health issues. Visit www.alcon.com for consumer information on symptoms and risk factors associated with glaucoma, cataract, dry eye syndrome, retinal diseases and other conditions of the eye.
About Alcon, Inc.
Alcon, Inc. has been serving the ophthalmic industry for more than 50 years. Alcon develops, manufactures and markets pharmaceuticals, surgical equipment and devices, contact lens solutions and other vision care products that treat diseases, disorders and other conditions of the eye.
ORBIS International is a nonprofit humanitarian organization dedicated to saving sight worldwide. Since 1982, ORBIS volunteers and staff have directly restored the vision and transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in more than 85 countries. At the same time, ORBIS has been building local capacity to provide eye care in those countries by training more than 120,000 eye care professionals aboard the
Hospital, in local hospitals, and through long-term national blindness prevention programs in
Vietnam. To learn more about ORBIS, visit www.orbis.org.
Brooke Johnson, US Public Relations, ORBIS International, +1(646) 674 5532, firstname.lastname@example.org