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1 in 10 Filipino students has an eye ailment, but many go untreated

Posted On 2014 Aug 05
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Students pray on the first day of classes at Casili Elementary School in Rodriguez, Rizal province, east of Manila June 2, 2014. Around 23 million students were present for the opening of the new school year in the Philippines, the Department of Education reported on Monday.  (MNS photo)

Students pray on the first day of classes at Casili Elementary School in Rodriguez, Rizal province, east of Manila June 2, 2014. Around 23 million students were present for the opening of the new school year in the Philippines, the Department of Education reported on Monday. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – Ten percent of Filipino pupils have eye problems, but few of these are detected early, the Department of Health said Monday.

Thus, as part of this month’s celebration of Sight Saving Month, the DOH is championing a program for school children to undergo vision screening to detect potential problems in their vision.

Of the pupils with eye problems, one fourth which have amblyopia or “lazy eye,” and the rest have main error of refraction (EOR), said DOH Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag.

The National Survey of Blindness 2004 and PERI-DOH Vision Screening Preliminary Data 2014 showed the prevalence of amblyopia is from 1-3 percent; and EOR, from 3-15 percent.

Amplyopia, Tayag said, is a condition of abnormal visual development in infancy and in early childhood. The affected eye will not develop normally if not treated before the child reaches age 7, and may even go blind.

Underscoring the importance of the campaign for early and thorough visual screening for all children, Tayag said: “Vision is one of the, if not the most important of our senses.  Most of the information from the outside world is integrated through the visual pathways.  Vision problems can limit the ability of a child to learn as well as interact with other students.”

Besides the health aspects, the resulting impairment, Tayag stressed, can have “negative impacts on the child’s intellectual and social growth and development.”

This August, the DOH, the Philippine Eye Research Institute of University of the Philippines-Manila and Lions International are piloting a program against visual impairment and blindness at the Cecilio Apostol Elementary School in Sta. Cruz, Manila.

The program provides training for some teachers in the school to do visual screening among the students using a Lea Symbols Chart, a recognized and highly recommended vision screening tool that is age-appropriate and culturally neutral.

Unlike the common vision chart that uses letters, the Lea Symbols Chart uses symbols like circles and squares so that even students who cannot yet read letters can identify them.

The Lea Chart can detect eye problems such as amblyopia and Errors of Refraction (EOR) among young pupils.

Students diagnosed with vision problems are being referred under the pilot program to either volunteer optometrists for refraction or to ophthalmologists for other eye diseases.They were also given free eye glasses. (MNS)

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