Ask any mother in Egypt about the list of things to do before the beginning of the school year and she will probably mention buying the missing items of uniform, going shopping for school bags, lunch boxes and stationary. She might even prepare her child by sending him to bed early a week before the first day of school and making sure he has a nice haircut.
Finally her conscience is clear, not knowing that she has missed the one thing that could affect her child physically.
Meet Salma, a seven-year-old girl who experienced the problem first hand. "My daughter is like most Egyptian girls her age, smart, active and full of life," says her mum. "We never considered the reason behind the continuous complaints from her teachers regarding problems with her reading and writing was something simple. First, we thought it was dyslexia, and then we dealt with it as Attention Deficit Disorder and took her to a famous specialised centre in Maadi, only to discover later that she is suffering from nothing more than a sight problem!"
"Salma is not an exception," declares Dr Karim Sidki, a lecturer in ophthalmology at Cairo university."We underestimate the importance of early and regular eye examinations to detect problems before they accumulate. The ideal age to start annual checkups is around six years old, and studies indicate that at twelve certain problems are difficult to resolve like ‘laziness’ of the eye. Other common problems we encounter are bacterial infections, with symptoms like redness or itchiness of the eye. As for eye ticks, it is usually associated with nervous tension and fades away or might only need vitamins. ‘Crossed eyes’ varies from one person to another and may only need proper glasses or surgery at three to six years of age."
"Indeed there are many issues related to the well-being of the sight that can be corrected and contained if detected early enough," says Dr Mohamed Guenena, an assistant lecturer of ophthalmology at Cairo university. "As early as when the child is born, cataracts can be detected and even parents can notice an unusual white spot in the pupil of the eye, commonly called ‘blue water’. The symptoms are abnormal enlargement of the eye. We also encounter various problems attributed to external factors of negligence regarding the safety of the eye. When damage occurs as a result of explosives, bleach, hot steam or the reckless use of toy guns then unfortunately in this country the story ends very sadly,” relates Guenena.
“ For adults there is a need to highlight the main symptoms for early detection of problems. In Egypt and other developing countries the number one cause of blindness is cataracts, which is easily reversible if diagnosed early and managed properly. Symptoms are cloudiness in vision and a blur when driving at night. Glaucoma is called the ‘silent killer’, so any person complaining of unexplained, repetitive headaches should be examined for hypertension, and then his eyes checked to exclude the possibility of such a hazard. Finally, those who suffer from short sight should be aware of symptoms like flashes of light or the sudden appearance of black spots in the vision, which might be the result of a retinal tear or detachment," Guenena advises.