Eyesight is often considered the most valuable of the five senses, that’s why it’s vital to take care of your eyes. With World Sight Day being commemorated in October, with the call to action being “Vision First!”, Novartis wants to not only promote your eye health, but also raise awareness about the importance of good vision.

In many geographic locations around the world, a robust, quality eye care system is often limited or not available at all.

Among the many things that we tend to ignore, our eye sight ranks higher. The importance of preventative eye care cannot be overstated, and yet most of us wait for a problem before visiting an optometrist. It is extremely important to keep your eyes healthy, by protecting your eyes, you will reduce the odds of blindness and vision loss while also staying on top of any developing eye diseases such as cataracts and glaucoma.

“The earlier an eye disease is diagnosed, the more effectively it can be treated. Preventive eye care is the first line of defense against vision problems and early detection may offer more effective treatment options that will help you avoid any further damage to your eyes”, says Dr Christos Nathaniel, Therapeutic Area Head – Specialty Care, Medical at Novartis.

In many geographic locations around the world, a robust, quality eye care system is often limited or not available at all. This is the reason why Novartis is planning eye screening and support programs that help increase access to sustainable eye care for patients, and particularly focusing on the disadvantaged schools in the surrounding areas.

Below are the common eye diseases in South Africa, and these need urgent attention to prevent further deterioration and loss of vision: 


Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, the health of which is vital for good vision.  The condition is irreversible, and often associated with increased intra-ocular pressure. Worldwide, about 66 million people are affected by glaucoma, and around 10% of these people become blind due to glaucoma. In South Africa it is estimated that about 200,000 people are affected1.

Glaucoma is most often seen in older adults, and because it is often painless, many people delay screening and treatment. Symptoms include reduced areas of vision and blurred vision. People over the age of 40 should have their eyes tested routinely every two years, and people over the age of 60 should have their eyes tested every year, to detect signs of glaucoma early. Once diagnosed, treatment helps to prevent further progression of the disease and further loss of vision.


Cataract is a clouding of the lens inside the eye, leading to a decrease in vision in one or both eyes. It is a common cause of blindness in South Africa, and can develop due to ageing, certain medical conditions or trauma to the eye. Cataract is responsible for 51% of world blindness, which represents about 20 million people.2 Surgery has been proven to be effective in treating cataracts. 

Age-related macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition affecting older people and involves the loss of the person’s central field of vision. It occurs when the macular (or central) retina develops degenerative lesions. Around the world, AMD ranks third as a cause of blindness after cataract and glaucoma3. AMD cannot be cured, but it can be treated to keep it from getting worse.

By having your eyes checked regularly, the odds of avoiding any serious vision impairment vastly improve. However, preventative care goes beyond simply getting tests; here’s what else you can do2:

  • Maintain a healthy, balanced diet all-year-round
  • Have periodic eye exams (every 2-3 years for healthy patients under 50, yearly for patients over 50 or those with known health risk factors)
  • Acknowledge any vision-based symptoms and see a specialist
  • Know your family’s history for any eye problems
  • Exercise regularly, even if it’s only a moderate walk
  • Wear sunglasses if you’ll be exposed to long bouts of bright sunshine. The value in protecting your eyes from UV cannot be measured
  • Quit smoking

For more information, visit: https://www.novartis.co.za/