What is it?
Good eye care starts with simple preventive non-medical interventions such as eye examination, washing the face regularly with clean water and soap, eating healthy foods high in vitamin A, and protecting the eye from dryness, sun glare and accidental injury.
Why is it relevant to NTDs?
Eyes are affected by a number NTDs and each of them can lead to visual impairment and (irreversible) blindness. However, these disabling consequences are completely preventable with early detection and adequate treatment. Health education about early signs of NTDs affecting the eye, promoting good WASH activities and improving household cleanliness, facilitating access to eye care services and prompt treatment of early eye disease are also very important.
For which NTDs is this relevant?
The best known are trachoma, onchocerciasis and leprosy.
What are the opportunities for use across NTDs?
Good vision is important in daily life activities, to identify injuries and health problems, and in performing self-care. Blindness in its turn has a negative impact on quality of life and is strongly related with social exclusion. Promotion of good eye health and eye care therefore play a major role in NTD programs. These components may be embedded in NTD-specific programs, integrated in special eye health programs or be part of the general health services. It is important to note that eye care is a cross-cutting issue that includes prevention, early detection, treatment, sometimes eye (lid) surgery and rehabilitation of persons with visual impairment. Promoting good eye healthcare in individuals affected by eye-related NTDs will prevent the development of blindness. Many organizations target promotion of eye care and prevention of blindness, including CBM International, Fred Hollows Foundation, Helen Keller International and Sightsavers. Sightsavers for example, focuses on the elimination of avoidable blindness and supports people with visual impairments to live independently by deploying community volunteers in the low and middle-income countries where they work.