Looking forward to a brighter, clearer future on World Sight Day

Today we celebrate World Sight Day, an annual day drawing attention to blindness, visual impairment and rehabilitation of the visually impaired. Globally, it is estimated that almost 300 million people suffer from severe visual impairment (blindness and low vision). About 90% of these live in developing countries.

There are many factors that cause chronic blindness. These include cataract, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, corneal opacities, diabetic retinopathy, trachoma, and eye conditions in children (e.g. caused by vitamin A deficiency). Uncontrolled diabetes is the main factor contributing to age-related blindness in both developed and developing countries.

The age groups most affected by visual impairment are people over the age of 50 (who suffer mainly from age-related impairments) and children below the age of 15 (mostly due to refractive errors – myopia, hyperopia or astigmatism).

A gentle reminder of the world through the eyes of the visually impaired. And this would be classified as mild impairment.
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A very important fact worth noting is that more than three quarters of all blindness is preventable or curable. Children in low and middle-income countries in particular are often victims of preventable eye diseases – diseases that, if left untreated, can lead to irreversible blindness. The WHO, in partnership with LIONS Club International, six years ago launched a worldwide, multi-year project to address curable diseases in children – an effort that has so far helped more than 100 million children through increased access to eye care in 30 countries. Many interventions are very basic, such as screening babies and children for eye problems as early as possible. Yet these can have a huge impact, because the earlier any problems are identified, the easier they typically are to address.

Looking at the past 20 years, things are definitely looking positive.  Worldwide, visual impairment is decreasing, despite an aging population. This is largely due to the increased effectiveness in treatment of infectious diseases.  Many countries have also made progress in terms of the establishment of nationally coordinated programmes to address visual impairment, greater focus on eye care in primary and secondary health care, awareness campaigns including school-based education, and stronger involvement of the private sector and civil society. There are also global initiatives like “Vision 2020: The Right to Sight”, created by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, that are doing amazing work to address the issues that still remain.

So while the problem remains huge, it’s nice to at least be able to say “It’s getting better.”  Definitely a good reason for celebration on World Sight Day!

Celebration of the Senses Day – taste, smell, hear, see, touch (and more)

Today is Celebration of the Senses Day – a day to remind yourself of your body’s amazing sensory abilities.

Given that, at any moment in time, we are bombarded by such a diverse combination of sensory experiences, our appreciation of the individual senses can become somewhat muddled. Our taste experience is affected by the smell, texture and temperature of our food. Similarly, our hearing is said to decrease after overeating, and our sight is affected by noises around us. Sight can also be hampered after eating fatty foods.

On Celebration of the Senses Day, how about conducting a couple of in-house experiments to give your senses a shake up?  Have a blindfolded smell-a-thon of items in the fridge. Listen to a piece of music in a pitch dark room. While you’re at it, dance around in the dark! Mix up your food experience by mashing, freezing or colouring different foods to create new and surprising sensory variations. Look at things around you through a looking glass. In short, utilise your senses to experience the world anew.

Here’s another interesting snippet – if a sad, depressed person tells you their world is dull and grey, and flowers have lost their smell, they’re not just speaking metaphorically. Research shows that sensory perception can actually be diminished in depressed individuals.

So focussing on a renewed appreciation of your senses can actually even help you to get out of that emotional rut you’re in.

Focusing on your sensory experiences can help make you a happier person.
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Five senses? Try ten!
The categorisation of our five primary senses (sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch) is attributed to Aristotle. While this categorisation is still valid, humans have a number of additional ‘sensory abilities’ not covered by the above. These secondary senses include:

  • Sense of balance and acceleration – the ability to sense body movement, direction and acceleration, and to maintain balance and equilibrium.
  • Temperature sense – the ability to sense heat and the absence of heat (cold).
  • Kinesthetic sense – the ability of the brain to be aware of the relative positions of various parts of the body without sensing these via the ‘normal’ senses (like being able to touch your nose with your finger, with your eyes closed).
  • Sense of Pain – the sense of pain was previously believed to be an overloading of pressure receptors, but it has since been identified as a distinct phenomenon that intertwines with the other senses, including touch.
  • Sense of Time – the ability to perceive the passage of time, both short passages as well as longer time cycles.
    (Source: Wikipedia)

Cool, isn’t it?  Even more senses to experiment with on Celebration of the Senses Day… Have fun!