The World Health Organization (WHO) recently, ranked high myopia prevalence among the ‘’world’s five priority health conditions’’. HENRY TYOHEMBA reports the dearth of optometrists in Nigeria despite serious warning on the disease.
A recent study that found that, the development of myopia and hyperopia, or farsightedness, involves different genes and cell signaling pathways.
In the research, it was suggested that by 2050, the number of people affected by myopia will reach 4.8 billion, or around half of the global population.
Amid these warnings, Nigeria is extremely faced with shortage of optometrists. With a population of almost 200 million, there are only 4,000 registered optometrists in Nigeria according to experts. 80 percent of these registered optometrists are in private practice due to government inability to engage them.
The national president of the Nigeria Optometrists Association, Dr Damian Echendu, who spoke with journalists recently in Abuja, said the current state of the economy had also made it difficult for people to go for eye checks, thereby falling victims of quacks.
According to him, “More than 80% of the 4,000 members are into private practice and why people prefer to go to public hospitals is because they are cheaper. In a situation whereby 80% of them are in private practice and with our economy which is very poor, it will be difficult for people to go and check their eyes.
WHO further said that myopia and high myopia prevalence is rising at “an alarming rate” worldwide, with accompanying increases in risks of serious eye conditions such as cataract, retinal damage, and glaucoma.
Myopia which is a condition in which the eye focuses images in front of the retina, instead of exactly on it also impairs distance vision but not near vision; it usually develops because the eye grows too long.
Many eye professionals have called on the federal government to include eye care services in the primary health care centres in order to make such services available to every Nigerian especially those in rural areas.
According to them, would reduce the rate of blindness in the country from eye defects such as cataracts and glaucoma which could be handled if presented early to the hospital.
Speaking recently with journalists in Abuja on the commemoration of the World Sight Day which is always celebrated every year on the second Thursday of October, an Ophthalmologist Consultant at the Garki Hospital, Abuja, Bitto Sewuese said Nigerians should always go to the hospital when they have problems with their sight and not visit quacks or native healers in other to prevent them from going blind.
According to her, Nigerians should always have their eyes checked yearly by ophthalmologists in approved hospitals in order to prevent blindness. She added that blindness for many could have been prevented if they had presented their cases to the hospital early.
She maintained that both eye diseases, she said, if presented early to the hospital can be managed effectively to prevent the patient from going totally blind.
“People should present their eye problems to approved healthcare centres and not traditional healers or mallams.”
The theme of this year’s celebration which is ‘Eye Care Everywhere,’ is a wake-up call to the federal government of Nigeria to invest massively and train optometrists in order to boost the cure for the disease.