Matlou keeps an eye on her community's vision

Written by Owen Mngadi

After witnessing how being blind affected her grandmother, a young girl vowed that she would one day help people in her community with vision problems.

Manare Matlou made good on her promise and today, at the young age of 23, has an optometry practice, Optic iCare Optometrists, in Giyani, which she opened in February 2022. Manare Matlou treats a patient in Giyani.

The daughter of pastors, Matlou was raised in Ga-Phadi in Limpopo. After matriculating from a local high school, she earned her Bachelor of Optometry degree from the University of Limpopo in 2020, at the age of 21. She then worked for several practices to gain experience and knowledge of running a practice.

Matlou says many people in her rural village live with vision problems and blindness because they cannot afford eye surgery. She says the extreme heat in the area contributes to people getting cataracts and light sensitivity eye diseases.

Because of the need for better eye care in the community, she chose to open her practice in Giyani. “You need to have business knowledge to start a private practice and you must learn from colleagues in the industry.”

Matlou says opening an optometry practice is expensive, because of the cost of the equipment and spectacle frames needed. She also had to hire two assistants. As soon as her business is better established, she wants to open more practices and offer pensioner discounts.

Look after your eyes

Eye Care Awareness Month, which runs from September 21 to October 18, aims to educate people on the importance of eye health and regular screenings to avoid future complications. The Department of Health recommends that you have your eyes tested every one to two years. If you have risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes, it is best to do it every year.

Matlou adds that a well-balanced diet, including nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zinc, and vitamins C and E, helps combat age-related vision problems. She also recommends people wear sunglasses to protect their eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

She also said that Optometrists offer primary eye care. They are trained to detect vision problems, eye diseases and other abnormalities. If needed, they supply glasses. If specialist care is needed, optometrists refer their patients to the right
specialist.

People wanting to study for an optometry degree at university level need to have done english, mathematics, physical sciences and life sciences at grade 12. It takes a minimum of four years to complete, and a one-year internship is compulsory.