Lauren Cameron looks into ocular health in Ho Chi Minh City. Photos by Romain Garrigue.

Ensuring proper eye health is important wherever you are in the world, but if you are a resident of Saigon – boy, do you need to keep on top of it.

Vietnam ranks among the top 10 countries in the world in terms of serious air pollution, making it a hotspot for eye irritation, dry eyes and disease such as allergic conjunctivitis. The stresses of Ho Chi Minh City living can also impact our vision.

Nguyen Ngo Vinh Tai, a refractionist at Eyewear HUT Optical in Thao Dien, says getting enough sleep at night is essential to maintaining good eye health.

“People who get fewer than six hours sleep are at greater risk of having their vision impacted,” he warned.

As well as getting enough shut-eye, Tai recommends that Saigonites wear anti-glare, anti-scratch, UV protection glasses whenever outside or riding a motorbike.

“Particularly in the morning when pollution and glare are at their worst,” he said. “You should also wear polarised glasses at night ‘without power’ to protect your retinas from having dirt fly into them.”

Ophthalmologists at the Japan International Eye Hospital also advise motorbike riders to wash their eyes using natriclorid 0.9 every time they complete a journey, and to use an artificial tear solution three to four times per day to prevent dry eyes.

How often should I get checked?

Standard international practise advises people to have a full eye exam at least once between age 20 to 29 with at least another two between the ages of 30 and 39.

Local eye specialists, however, recommend getting tested every three to 12 months if living in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi.

Once you hit 40 it is recommended adults not showing symptoms of eye disease get a baseline eye disease screening and then, based on those results, follow the ophthalmologist’s advice for follow-up examinations.

If you are over 65, it is recommended you have a complete eye exam annually.

And for kids?

It’s worth noting kids require eye exams every year or less because their vision changes rapidly with growth.

You should have your child undergo their first comprehensive eye exam at six months of age, followed by another at age three and another around age five or six.

Early identification of a child’s vision problem can make a huge difference to their long-term prospects, as kids are more receptive to treatment following an early diagnosis.

How much?

If you look hard enough, you should be able to find a clinic in HCMC that offers free eye exams.

At Eyewear HUT Optical, Thao Dien, it costs VND50,000 for Vietnamese nationals and VND100,000 for foreigners to have a comprehensive eye exam.

Where to get your eyes checked

You will be pleased to know that HCMC boasts a large number of medical centres, hospitals, clinics and retail stores that specialise in onsite eye examinations.

In general, the city’s private practices and international, English speaking clinics and hospitals offer the most efficient services, though that does come at a price.

Victoria Healthcare
+84 28 3910 4545
They have four clinics across HCMC, two in District 1, another in District 7 and a fourth in Phu Nhuan District.

American Eye Center
+84 28 5413 6758
5th Floor, Crescent Plaza, 105 Ton Dat Tien, District 7

Eyewear HUT Optical
+84 28 3519 2028
Ground, 161 Ha Noi Highway, District 2

Cao Thang International Eye Hospital
+84 93456 7135
135B Tran Binh Trong, Ward 2, District 5

CMI – Centre Medical Internationale
+84 28 3827 2366
1 Han Thuyen, District 1

Signs you should book into an eye exam
1. If you have sudden or gradual blurry vision.
2. If you are seeing floaters, flashes of sight and other odd visual disturbances.
3. Frequent headaches. These can be a sure-fire sign that you have a vision problem.
4. If you are experiencing eye fatigue or strain.
5. You find yourself squinting.
6. You suddenly have sensitivity to light.
7. Your eyelids are swelling and you sense itchiness, redness and/or discharge.