WHEN Gail Cillie was a teenager, she noticed her vision was deteriorating.
“I could not see at night,” she said. “I started bumping into thing and tripping over things. These were the indicators for me.”
The next thing to go was her contrast sensitivity.
Cillie said she would trip when stepping off the pavement because she could not see the edge. Steps also posed a problem. At first she was told she needed glasses and then she was diagnosed with night blindness. Years later an opthamologist told her that she had retinitis pigmentosa.
“I lost 10 years of my life [due to a bad diagnosis]. That is why I have a passion for awareness. People can overcome it and find new ways to see.”
Retina SA, which is dedicated to finding the causes of, and treatments for RDDs, moved premises from Newton Park to 187 Main Road, Walmer last month.
As the East Cape Branch chairwoman of Retina SA, Cillie dedicates her time to creating awareness of retinal degenerative disorders (RDDs).
“There are around 200 different RDDs. The most common are retinitis pigmentosa, juvenile macular degeneration (Stargardts dystrophy), age-related macular degeneration and Ushers syndrome.
“These conditions lead to vision loss such as central vision loss, peripheral vision loss and sometimes a combination of both. But in most cases they lead to blindness.
October is Eye Care Awareness Month and Retina South Africa will be doing its part to create awareness of sight-related conditions.
Cillie said the main aim of Eye Care Awareness Month was to make people aware that these conditions existed.
“We hope during this month people who have not been diagnosed will be,” said Cillie.
She encourages anyone who has questions, or needs advice to come to their office for assistance.
“Our aim is to identify and name conditions and to empower people to manage their eye condition.”
Cillie said there were many symptoms of low vision, but what one needed to look out for was if there was a change in the way you see.
“People tend to make excuses, but if there is any difference in your vision it needs to be checked out.”
She said people with retina degeneration should contact Retina SA so it could start a database, especially of young people who might be eligible for clinical trials.
Retina SA can be contacted on (041)819-6564 or e-mail email@example.com.