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Eye Care In Third-World Countries

Eye Care In Third-World Countries

Author: Dr. William Tullo
July 11, 2014

Access to eye care in third-world countries is extremely rare. Services such as laser eye surgery are simply unavailable. In countries such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and some in Central America and Africa, the most basic reading glasses, sunglasses, eye drops and other eye-care equipment are hard to come by.

What eye care is needed in third-world countries?

You might be surprised to learn how rare myopia (the inability to see distance objects, also known as nearsightedness) is in developing countries. The National Institutes of Health notes that approximately 30 to 40 percent of people in America need distance-vision correction, compared to only 10 to 20 percent in Africa. The reason could be genetic, as myopia can be genetically predisposed, or it could be due to the indoor lifestyle of the developed world.

Distance glasses are still needed for some individuals in these countries, but overall optometric access is far more important. A basic eye exam can uncover a need for reading glasses (which nearly all adults need after age 40), sunglasses to help prevent cataracts (especially important for the outdoor lifestyle common to developing populations), and eye drops to treat infectious diseases (e.g., pink eye).

UV rays from sun exposure can speed up the development of cataracts. Removal of cataracts—a procedure so common to the United States that it is covered by Medicare—is difficult in developing nations due to lack of ophthalmologists and surgical facilities to perform the procedure. Cataracts, a clouding of the eye’s internal lens, can therefore lead to a devastating loss of vision if the lens is not surgically replaced by a new, clear artificial lens.

Who brings eye care to third-world countries?

“If we don’t bring the doctor, they don’t see the doctor,” said Todd Perry, CEO and Executive Director of the Pujols Family Foundation (PFF), created by Major League Baseball player Albert Pujols.

Charitable organizations such as the PFF, Optometry Giving Sight (OGS) and VOSH provide free eye exams, glasses, drops and other optometric care to developing nations. In many cases, these organizations and others can see and treat thousands of people in a week.  In addition, some vision-correction companies, including TLC Laser Eye Centers, have made vision-correction in third-world countries a priority. 

How exactly does laser eye surgery help third-world countries?

Many people who have laser eye surgery donate gently used glasses to OGS and other charitable optometric associations. Even if you haven’t had LASIK, you can still donate your eyeglasses when you upgrade to a new pair. In addition, sunglasses and readers are as—if not more—beneficial, in developing nations.


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