Curb­ing avoid­able blind­ness

Daily Trust - - HEALTH - By Ojoma Akor and Lat­i­fat Opoola

Ya­haya Kas­simu, 24 , is from a small vil­lage in the north­ern part of the coun­try with a high preva­lence of tra­choma, an in­fec­tion of the eyes. He got in­fected with tra­choma when he was six and this was aided by the huge num­ber of flies in his near desert com­mu­nity that trans­mit­ted it from one per­son to the other.

The ab­sence of a proper health care fa­cil­ity and a tra­choma con­trol cen­tre nearby made him to have re­peated in­fec­tions, and to­day he is a blind man. So are some of his rel­a­tives and many peo­ple around him.

Daily Trust ob­served peo­ple per­sis­tently driv­ing flies from their faces in Ya­haya’s com­mu­nity both to avoid dis­com­fort as they perch, and to avoid trans­mis­sion of the tra­choma.

Tra­choma is caused by an or­gan­ism called Chlamy­dia tra­choma­tis. It causes scar­ring on the in­side of the eye­lid, mak­ing the eye­lashes even­tu­ally turn in.

As the coun­try joins the world to mark the 2015 World Sight Day on Thurs­day, there is ur­gent need for con­certed ef­forts in pre­vent­ing avoid­able blind­ness and vi­sion im­pair­ment.

The World Sight Day (WSD) is an an­nual day of aware­ness held on the sec­ond Thurs­day of Oc­to­ber ev­ery year. This year it falls on Thurs­day 8th of Oc­to­ber 2015 and the theme is “Uni­ver­sal Eye Health, Eye Care for All”.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Abi­ola Oyel­eye, a con­sul­tant oph­thal­mol­o­gist in La­gos, 90% of vis­ually im­paired live in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries in­clud­ing Nige­ria, and it is es­ti­mated that 1,130,000 in­di­vid­u­als over 40 years old are cur­rently blind in Nige­ria.

“Cataract is the most com­mon cause of blind­ness world­wide and vi­sion can be re­stored by a 20 minute op­er­a­tion. Glau­coma is the sec­ond most com­mon cause of blind­ness. Though, it can­not be cured its progress can be stopped. Re­frac­tive er­rors (the need for glasses) are the most com­mon cause of mod­er­ate vis­ual im­pair­ment,” he said.

He said there are 285 mil­lion blind/vis­ually im­paired peo­ple in the world, and 80% of blind­ness is avoid­able.

The

ex­pert

said

a 10 minute eye test with pro­fes­sional eye care prac­ti­tion­ers could help pre­vent blind­ness. “It is much cheaper to have an eye test than to go blind,” said Oyel­eye,

Dr Barka David Lass, an oph­thal­mol­o­gist and the med­i­cal di­rec­tor of Jor­dan Eye Hos­pi­tal in Do­gon-Karfe, Jos, Plateau State also said cataract and glau­coma are the lead­ing causes of avoid­able blind­ness in Nige­ria and the world over.

He said while pri­mary cataract can­not be pre­vented, sec­ondary cataract can be pre­vented through the avoid­ance of the in­dis­crim­i­nate use of eye drops con­tain­ing steroids, preven­tion of trauma to the eye, ap­pro­pri­ate treat­ment of in­flam­ma­tion of the eye, ad­e­quate treat­ment of dis­eases such as di­a­betes among many other op­tions.

“Blind­ness from cataract ir­re­spec­tive of the cause can be pre­vented through early de­tec­tion and ap­pro­pri­ate surgery,” he said.

Dr Adunola Ogunro, a con­sul­tant oph­thal­mol­o­gist at Eye Foun­da­tion Hos­pi­tal, Abuja and who has spe­cial in­ter­est in glau­coma said that glau­coma is a dis­ease that af­fects the op­tic nerve and causes blind­ness but added that blind­ness from glau­coma can be pre­vented.

The glau­coma spe­cial­ist said if the dis­ease is de­tected and treated early treat­ment it will not nec­es­sar­ily cause blind­ness through­out the in­di­vid­ual’s life.

On pre­vent­ing glau­coma, she ad­vised that “Ev­ery­body should at least check their eyes once a year and for peo­ple with fam­ily history, at least twice a year be­cause it is only by check­ing the eyes, go­ing for full eye ex­am­i­na­tion that one can de­tect if there is glau­coma or not.”

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Barka David Lass, med­i­cal di­rec­tor of Jor­dan Eye Hos­pi­tal Jos, we have very few fa­cil­i­ties pro­vid­ing eye care in the coun­try and these few fa­cil­i­ties are lo­cated in the big cities and most ru­ral ar­eas do not have eye care fa­cil­i­ties thereby mak­ing it ex­tremely dif­fi­cult for them to ac­cess eye care.

“The few fa­cil­i­ties in the cities are also very ex­pen­sive, mak­ing peo­ple to re­sort to al­ter­na­tive care in­clud­ing tra­di­tional eye care prac­tices’’.

Another con­cern that is closely re­lated to the one above is the lack of highly spe­cial­ized eye cares in the coun­try, Dr lass said most of the eye care ser­vices that we pro­vide in this coun­try are mainly cu­ra­tive with lit­tle or no em­pha­sis on pre­ven­tive or re­ha­bil­i­ta­tive eye care ser­vices.

He also lamented that most of the pre­ven­tive eye care pro­grams like the tra­choma con­trol, river blind­ness con­trol, vi­ta­min A dis­tri­bu­tion and school eye health pro­grams are largely non- gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion (NGO) driven.

He said eye care de­liv­ery has not found the rel­e­vance it de­serves be­fore gov­ern­ment and health care man­agers in this coun­try, yet, it of­fers some of the most cost ef­fec­tive in­ter­ven­tions and good re­turn on in­vest­ment in health care de­liv­ery.

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