SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY) - On June 21st through 23rd, Kidz at Sea Foundation welcomed a team of Essilor of America employees and volunteer eye care professionals to St. Maarten to perform free eye exams to those in need.
These volunteers have been providing free eye exams and corrective eye wear, to those in need, on St. Maarten for the last three consecutive years and on Anguilla the last two consecutive years.
Essilor’s mission is improving lives by improving sight and working with organizations like Kidz at Sea is just one way the company lives this mission. Screening children is especially important as 80 percent of a child’s learning occurs through their eyes.
Essilor coordinated a group of optometrists and volunteers from the U.S, including three doctors, two opticians and one nurse, as well as all the necessary equipment for testing. They worked diligently to ensure that any person that turned up to be examined was not turned away, despite a fairly heavy pre-coordinated schedule of patients.
This year between Milton Peters College, the Sundial School, the White & Yellow Cross, the Teachers’ Resource Center and Blossom Centre, they saw 648 patients in just three days. The majority in St. Maarten, representing approximately 1 % of our entire Dutch side population! Participants ranged in age from 3 to 80; with all ranges of sight.
80% of the patients seen need corrective eye wear. It just goes to show the critical role of protecting your eyes, with the potential damaging effects of the sun, diabetes and hypertension all taking their toll. Many of the adults we saw unsolicited had never had an eye exam—almost all of them had degradation of vision.
Kidz at Sea is very appreciative of the Essilor team and all that they do to support us and St. Maarten both on and off the water.
In the hopes of spreading awareness here are some key issues about eye health every resident of St. Maarten should know.
Non-aging causes of Eye Damage
From sun: UV (ultraviolet) rays of the sun damage sensitive cells in the eyes which can affect vision. The effects of UV rays on the eyes build up over the years and may increase the chance of developing ocular problems later on like cataracts, for example. Even short-term eye damage is possible with exposure to the sun, such as photo conjunctivitis, a form of "pink eye," which is an inflammation of the outer membrane of the eye.
The highest UV exposure for the eyes is in the morning and mid-afternoon. Protecting children's eyes is very important as the research shows that a significant amount of lifetime exposure to UV rays may occur before the age of 18. To protect your eyes, choose polarized sunglasses (polarization limits transmission to no more than 1 percent UVB and 1 percent UVA rays) that have lenses large enough to cover the eye and prevent as much light as possible from entering (wrap-around sunglasses are the best), and darker grey or brown lenses along with wide-brimmed hats are the way to go.
Related to diabetes: People who suffer from diabetes, are also prone to diabetic retinopathy, a disease to the back of the eye, the retina, which progresses to cause permanent vision loss. This condition can affect both eyes and the longer a person has diabetes, the more likely they will develop diabetic retinopathy. This is a very serious condition that is 100% caused by diabetes, the systemic disease, and can lead to serious complications with eyesight. There are things you can do if you are diabetic to help prevent or slow down the development of diabetic retinopathy such as: taking your medication as prescribed, sticking to your diet, exercising regularly, controlling high blood pressure, and avoiding alcohol and smoking.
Related to hypertension: Untreated high blood pressure can also affect your eyesight and lead to hypersensitive retinopathy, a disease to the back of the eye, the retina, which progresses to cause permanent vision loss. Since hypertension is an asymptomatic disease (there are no specific symptoms other than headaches and vision problems), early stages of hypersensitive retinopathy can only be discovered during a comprehensive eye exam. The best way to prevent this condition is to adequately control your blood pressure through proper diet and exercise and take your high blood pressure medication as prescribed. Seeing your eye doctor on a regular basis for routine comprehensive care is a great preventive measure.
Related to use of technology: Research is still ongoing, but some studies indicate that staring at the screen for too long can cause squinting, over-straining of the eye muscles, and headaches. Laptops, smartphones and tablets are all part of our daily life, but there are some tips on how to preserve your eyesight while surfing the web. First, take regular breaks from the screen and do not spend too much time staring at a bright screen in a dark place. More importantly, get your eyes examined and if you have prescription eyeglasses, make sure to wear them as prescribed.
About Essilor of America, Inc.
Essilor, the leading manufacturer of optical lenses in the United States, is driven by the company's mission of improving lives by improving sight. A pioneer in the development and production of ophthalmic lenses, Essilor employs more than 10,000 people throughout North America. Essilor manufactures optical lenses under the Varilux®, Crizal®, Transitions®, Xperio UV™, Eyezen™, and other Essilor brand names. Essilor Laboratories of America, Inc. is the largest and most trusted optical lab network in the U.S. and offers a wide choice of products and services to eyecare professionals across the nation. Essilor of America, Inc. (Essilor) is a subsidiary of Paris-based Essilor International, a publicly held company traded on the Euronext Paris stock exchange (Reuters: ESSI.PA).
About The Essilor Vision Foundation
The Essilor Vision Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public, non-profit organization, based in Dallas, Texas, dedicated to helping people achieve better lives through better sight by creating and supporting activities that advance good vision and its benefits to those who need it most. For more information visit: www.evfusa.org