On 09/Oct/2015 / In Articles
The second Thursday of every October is set aside as world sight day by the International Agency for Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), a coalition of non-governmental organisations working in the field of eye care. This year’s theme is "Eye Care for All". This Theme advocates for all people irrespective of their race, sex, religious orientation and social class to have access to quality eye care. The world sight day is celebrated all over world and is effectively being used to create awareness on avoidable blindness through public lecture, symposia, group discussion and radio jingles. It also provides opportunity to offer free eye screening, cataract surgery and spectacles to indigent patients.
For the purpose of public awareness, avoidable blindness is a kind of visual impairment that can be prevented through a known means. In Nigeria, the most common cause of avoidable blindness is cataract. According to the Nigerian National Blindness and Visual Impairment Survey, cataract accounts for 43% of all causes of avoidable blindness in Nigeria. Cataract has myriad causes but the most commons are old age, trauma, diabetes, local eye disease as well as irradiation. Although, cataract can occur at any age but the age-related cataract is the most common and most often has a good visual potential after surgical removal. The symptoms of cataract include hazy vision which may be worst in a dim or lit environment, glare and presence of whitish spot inside dark part of the eye ball. The good story about age-related cataract is the fact that the condition is curable by surgery and blindness from it can therefore be prevented and avoided.
Glaucoma is another eye disease that steals sight and cause irreversible blindness. It is a disease that slowly but progressively damages the optic nerve, the nerve that connects the eye to the brain and hence cut off the two way communication between the eye and the brain. It is akin to damaging the root of a tree. If the root is damaged, the tree will ultimately and invariably dry off. Simple analogy can be drawn in the two scenarios for easy comprehension and understanding the big picture of glaucoma. Like the eye like the tree in this circumstance. Although visual impairment from glaucoma is irreversible, blindness can be prevented through compliance with follow up appointment with the physicians and adherence to treatment. Because glaucoma runs in family, first degree relatives (Biological sons, daughters and Siblings) of a person with glaucoma are encouraged to have eye screening and should the disease be detected early, treatment can be instituted early and blindness can be prevented.
Uncorrected short-sightedness and long-sightedness constitute another category of condition can cause visual impairment and blindness. A short-sighted person, as the implies, sees clearly only what is near while a long-sighted person in the contrary sees clearly only what is at far.The extreme forms of these conditions can lead to blindness especially in children. When a child cannot read what is on the board unless he comes closer or when the eye deviates either inward or outward whenever the child is reading, then the possibility of these errors of refraction in the child is high and needs to see an eye doctor. Refractive errors, as these conditions are called, can be treated through the use of spectacles and blindness can be avoided when the spectacles are accepted and properly used.
Diabetes is a systemic disease but leaves its footprints in the eye. Eye affectation in diabetes is very common and mostly occurred in individuals not compliant and non-adherent to their diabetic drugs. Complications of diabetes in the eye can lead to blindness if not properly addressed. The key to blindness prevention in diabetes is adherence to anti- diabetic treatment and dietary control.
The world sight day offers opportunity for us to remind policy makers, key decision makers , political leaders as well as the government officials about the unmet demand for quality eye care for all. The major impediments to universal eye health in Nigeria are paucity and maldistribution of eye specialists with higher concentration in the cities to the detriment of rural areas where the backlog of cataract exists. Government need to invest in eye care to ensure access to all and sundry.
I hope this piece will serve as a reminder to all, especially drivers of commercial and personal cars, Okada and Keke drivers as well as people with diabetes and hypertension to check their eyes on this world sight day commemoration.
Dr Abdullahi Sadiq Mohammed
National Eye Center, Kaduna.
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