Tired eyes, or something more serious?

Focus on eye care this Eye Care Awareness Month

It’s SA National Eye Care Awareness Month from 23 September to 18 October, and to mark the occasion, Novartis South Africa has called on South Africans to pay closer attention to eye care and the symptoms of eye diseases.

“Common eye problems can range from tired, red eyes through to deteriorating vision,” says Dr Nicola Lister, Chief Scientific Officer & Medical Director, Novartis Southern Africa. “It’s important to know what symptoms are serious and seek treatment early to avoid further damage to your eyes.”

Eyes can become red and sore simply from working too long on a computer; or they could become red and itchy from allergies. If redness and itching persists, ask your doctor or pharmacist about an anti-allergy eye drop that will help reduce these symptoms. Artificial tears may help to bathe the eye and reduce itching, while anti-histamine eye drops may reduce the allergic reaction.

However, a number of more serious conditions are common in South Africa, and these need urgent attention to prevent further deterioration and loss of vision. These include:


Glaucoma is the build-up of pressure inside the eye, which can cause permanent damage if left untreated1. 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.

“Whether your condition is dry eye, which affects around 344 million people worldwide, or visual impairment, which affects around 285 million people worldwide, up to 80% of vision problems can be avoided4,” says Dr Lister. “As a leading ophthalmology company, Novartis and its Alcon division produces therapies that treat both front- and back-of-the-eye disorders, including retinal diseases, glaucoma, dry eye and other external eye diseases, and we are working on novel therapies designed to address the root causes of certain disorders. In 2016 alone, 200 million patients worldwide were treated with Novartis ophthalmic products. Disease by disease, we are making progress toward eliminating blindness, in collaboration with health care service providers.”


South African Glaucoma Society FAQs https://www.sags.co.za/ Accessed 14/09/2018
WHO Priority Eye Diseases – Glaucoma
WHO Priority Eye Diseases – Cataract
WHO World Health Organization, Visual impairment and blindness – Media Centre. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs282/en/ http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/blindness-and-visual-impairment. Accessed 15/09/2018


About Novartis

Novartis provides innovative healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, cost-saving generic and biosimilar pharmaceuticals and eye care. Novartis has leading positions globally in each of these areas. In 2016, the Group achieved net sales of USD 48.5 billion, while R&D throughout the Group amounted to approximately USD 9.0 billion. Novartis Group companies employ approximately 119,000 full-time-equivalent associates. Novartis products are sold in approximately 155 countries around the world. For more information, please visit http://www.novartis.com.

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