Eye specialists 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.
This, they said 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.
This advice was given in commemoration of the World Sight Day which is always celebrated every year on the second Thursday of October.
The day seeks to spread awareness and focus attention on the global issue of avoidable blindness and visual impairment.
The theme of this year’s celebration, which fell on October 11, is ‘Eye Care Everywhere.’
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES, Bitto Sewuese, a Consultant Ophthalmologist at the Garki Hospital, Abuja, 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.
She said Nigerians should always have their eyes checked yearly by ophthalmologists in approved hospitals in order to prevent blindness.
Ms Sewuese said blindness for many could have been prevented if they had presented their cases to the hospital early.
She said the two major causes of blindness in Nigeria are cataract and glaucoma.
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. They should not apply things like urine, onion water, and battery water to the eyes. This will only cause more harm to the eyes and might lead to total blindness,” she said.
Also speaking on the importance of the day, an optometrist with the NNPC clinic, Godspower Brameta, said the day is meant for advocacy and educating Nigerians on the importance of taking care of their sight the same way they take care of all their other body parts.
Mr Brameta said in respect to the theme for the year, “Eye care everywhere, it is a call to the government to get involves in eye care services.
He said according to the theme eye care everywhere, it is possible to have eye services everywhere especially in the rural part of the country.
Mr Brameta called on the government to employ more optometrists who are the primary eye care providers and engage them in all primary healthcare centres across the nation such that people even in the rural areas can access care with ease without going to general hospitals.
He explained that at if the government intends employing optometrists for the PHCs, they should have enough personnel to fill all the positions.
He said the PHC is the first point of call when someone wants to access eye care. He said optometrists are more in number than the ophthalmologists and even beyond the WHO standard, “when you have one ophthalmologist, you should have at least five optometrists “.
He said though some eye cases can only be handled at the secondary and tertiary, most of the other curative cases can be handled at PHC level.
“For those cases that require care at the tertiary level that should be fixed, optometrists can fish out the cases and they can pass it on to the ophthalmologist but the ones that can be handled at the primary care do not need to see the ophthalmologist,” he said.
Mr Brameta said Nigeria does not have enough optometrists.
“Even at that the numbers we have, government is not engaging them at the primary care level so that makes it much more difficult for patients to access eye care in their neighborhood so that is the advocacy.
“Eye care should be made available where you don’t have to travel distance to have access. So eye care should be made available at the primary health care Centres for all nook and cronies in Nigeria so that people don’t go blind for lack of services to eye care.”