The eye is a very important organ of the body, but despite that, some people do not take proper care of their eyes thereby resulting in visual impairment or blindness.
To date, myths about the eye abound amongst the populace and many people do not have access to basic eye care services in the country.
As Nigeria will be joining the rest of the world to mark this year’s World Sight Day on Thursday, October 14, experts under the aegis of the Young Opthalmologists Forum (YOF/OSN) have called on the members of the public to love their eyes by going for an eye exam.
They say that everyone counts and deserves to have a lifetime of good vision.
“Therefore, encourage your family and friends to have their eyes examined as well. If you have never had an eye examination, now is the right time to go for one,” they advised.
According to Dr Henrietta Ifechukwude Monye, an Ophthalmology Senior Registrar at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, 2.2 billion people are visually impaired globally.
She said in Nigeria, about one in every 25 persons aged 40 years and older is blind; and 84% of blindness could have been prevented or treated.
Dr Monye said visual impairment is the partial or complete inability of a person to see.
“It includes problems with both distant vision, that is seeing things that are far away, and near vision that is seeing things that are close by such as reading.
“About half of the people that are visually impaired are needlessly so because, though their eye conditions could have been prevented or treated, they do not have access to basic eye care.
“Visual impairment is such a big issue because it affects the livelihood, productivity, and quality of life of both the affected individual and the country as a whole,” she said.
Dr Monye, who is also the founder of EyeHubNigeria Initiative, said there are so many misconceptions about the eye, and that many people are carefree about their eye health.
“For instance, people believe that there can be no problem with their eyes if they do not have any symptoms. But the fact is that some of the causes of irreversible blindness like glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy do not have symptoms until it is too late.
“Another myth is that blindness is synonymous with old age. Although some eye diseases are more common in older people, many can be prevented or treated if they are detected early.
“Yet again, people believe that substances like urine can cure their eye problems, but this is dangerous and can lead to blindness,” she said.
The ophthalmologist said the leading causes of visual impairment in Nigeria are uncorrected refractive errors (about 57 per cent) and refractive errors can be managed with eyeglasses.
She said the leading cause of blindness is cataract, adding that it can be reversed with cataract surgery.
She said, “Irreversible blindness, on the other hand, is mainly due to glaucoma. Glaucoma affects one in 20 people (40 years and older), and 20 per cent of these are already blind in one eye by the time they seek care.
“Other causes of visual impairment include diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, eye injuries, and eye infections.”
Ways people can protect their eyesight
Dr Monye said our eyes are precious and should be treated with the utmost care. An eye exam, whether or not you think there is a problem with your eye, can save your sight so we need to be proactive when it comes to caring for our eyes, she said.
The expert said helpful eye care tips are:
·Regular eye exams will ensure that eye problems are detected early
· A healthy diet and lifestyle are vital to maintaining a healthy vision
· Never ignore an eye symptom. Visit your eye doctor immediately to have it checked out
· Always use protective eyewear while working at home or in the workplace as appropriate
· Do not use eye drops not prescribed by your eye doctor. They may be harmful to your eyes
· Do not put substances like urine, camphor, saliva, or herbal preparations into your eyes. They can lead to blindness.