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Eyes are the windows to the soul

While this famous proverb has been attributed to many of the great English poets, including Shakespeare and Marlowe, it’s really a corrupted translation from the Latin, Ut imago est animi viltus sic indices oculi – As the face is the image of the soul, so the eyes are its interpreter – attributed to Roman philosopher Cicero (106BC-43BC).

It might seem a mere poetic utterance, but did you know that researchers have actually established a link between eye structure and personality – that’s science backing up Cicero’s claim!

How to take care of your eyes
Not only are our eyes windows to our soul, but they’re our window on the world. Those of us with the gift of sight do tend to take our eyesight much for granted, but imagine for a moment how different life would be if you experienced partial or total loss of sight. Given how special eyesight is, we need to make sure we take good care of our eyes – protect them from injury and infection and have our eyes tested regularly to assess and correct deterioration. 

Eye diseases in South Africa
According to the Department of Health, 80% of blindness is avoidable, that is treatable or preventable. Some of the leading causes of vision impairment amongst South Africans are:

  • Cataracts (a clouding of the eye’s normally clear lens) – causes 66% of all cases of vision impairment
  • Glaucoma (a condition of increased pressure within the eyeball which leads to loss of vision) – causes 14% of all cases of blindness or vision impairment 
  • Diabetic retinopathy (a condition where high blood sugar levels causes damage to the small blood vessels of the retina) – accounts for 8% of blindness and is on the increase
  • Age-related macular degeneration (a breakdown of the eye’s macula, the highly sensitive and specialised central area of the retina)
  • Corneal scarring (injury to the cornea) – due to malnourishment and, especially, vitamin A deficiency in children. 

How regularly should we go for an eye check-up?
The South African Optometric Association recommends we go for an eye examination once a year, to check the health of our eyes and to issue us with a prescription for glasses if necessary or to check we’re wearing the correct prescription, if glasses or contact lenses are already worn. 

Does my medical aid cover vision care?
Medihelp offers optical benefits through the Preferred Provider Negotiators (PPN) optical network. With over 2 000 optometrists across South Africa part of  the network, PPN is the largest optical network in the country. 

PPN’s benefits and claims administration are recognised as setting the benchmark within the eyecare industry. Embracing the central tenets of excellence, integrity, accountability, respect and care, PPN strives to offer members cost-effective eye care, without compromising professional standards, and top quality service. 

To learn more about precisely which optometry benefits are offered by your particular medical aid benefit option, please visit that benefit option's product page:

Optometrists who are part of the PPN network have been contracted to charge an agreed-upon rate for their professional services. These rates are known as the PPN tariffs and Medihelp pays optical benefits according to these rates. 

Although you may visit any optometrist*, should the cost exceed the PPN tariff (the benefit amount), then you’ll have to make a co-payment (that is, pay the difference). 

*Members of the Necesse medical aid benefit option must use an optometrist who is part of the PPN network to qualify for benefits. 

Remember: Benefits are subject to pre-authorisation by PPN, so please do get pre-authorisation first! If pre-authorisation isn’t obtained, no benefits can be granted.

For further information or assistance, phone the PPN call centre on 086 010 3529. Be sure to have your membership number and patient details on hand. 

Tips to protect your eyes
We may spend hours in the gym strengthening our muscles, use skincare products to protect our skin or visit the dentist regularly to take care of our dental health, but what about our eyes? Here’s what you can do to make sure you remain bright-eyed and bushy-tailed:

  • Visit an optometrist regularly for a comprehensive eye examination
  • Get overall physical check-ups regularly to check for chronic diseases which contribute to vision impairment, like diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • When outdoors, wear sunglasses with UV protection to protect your eyes against the harmful effects of the sun
  • Exercise regularly to improve blood circulation and lower blood pressure in the eyes and keep glaucoma at bay
  • Eat healthily – plenty of fresh fruit and veg high in vitamin A and beta carotene, like carrots, tomatoes, oranges, papaya, melon and oranges. 
  • If you’re a smoker, quit – smoking increases the risks of cataracts, macular degeneration and optic nerve damage. 
  • Prevent eye strain when working at a computer by ensuring your screen is placed at the correct distance from your eyes, and taking frequent breaks (for example, look out of the window every now and then)
  • If you work in an industrial environment, prevent potential eye injuries by wearing the correct protective eyewear.