Optometry in contemporary Nigeria

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Vision 2020: The Right to Sight, is the global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness, a joint programme of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).

Vision 2020: The Right to Sight was launched in 1999. It sought to promote: “the world in which nobody is needlessly visually impaired, where those with unavoidable vision loss can achieve their full potential.”

The Global Initiative was set up to intensify and accelerate prevention of blindness activities so as to achieve the goal of eliminating avoidable blindness by 2020.

Vision 2020’s major priorities are cataract; trachoma; onchocerciasis; childhood blindness, and refractive error and low vision, but moved on to include diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration. These have been selected not only because of the burden of blindness that they represent but, also, because of the feasibility and affordability of interventions to prevent and treat these conditions.

However, with a new resolve aimed to reduce avoidable visual impairment as a global public health burden and to secure the much needed accessible rehabilitative eye care services; ‘’The Universal Eye Health: A Global action plan (2014-2019)’’ was adopted by the 66th World Health Assembly on 28th March 2013. This document emphasizes that provision of effective and accessible eye care is key to effectively control visual impairment and blindness.

Some most recent estimates on the global magnitude and causes of visual impairment has confirmed a major opportunity for change in the lives of millions of people all over the world, including Nigeria because 80% of all causes of visual impairment including blindness are preventable or curable.

For 2010, WHO estimated that 285 million people are visually impaired of whom 39million are blind and most of these live in developing countries like Nigeria.

It is worthy to note that the two major causes of visual impairment in the world are refractive error and cataract. The Optometrist can and do play a key role in cost-effective interventions to reduce these burden by treatment and case finding and early referral of surgery when appropriate.

Refractive error is amongst the most common causes of blindness and visual impairment; it is also the easiest to handle. Refractive error can be simply diagnosed and corrected, and the provision of spectacles is an extremely cost-effective intervention, providing immediate correction of the problem.

Who is an Optometrist

Optometrists are primary health care practitioners of the eye and visual system who provide comprehensive eye and vision care, which includes refraction and dispensing, detection/diagnosis and management of disease in the eye, and rehabilitation of conditions of the visual system.

In Nigeria, Optometry is regulated by the Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Registration Board of Nigeria (ODORBN)

Optometry is studied in the University as a six-year course leading to the award of a doctor of Optometry degree.

Primary Care Optometry emphasises the development and maintenance of a high level of knowledge and clinical ability over the entire area of eye vision care and areas of eye related health care.

Public Health Optometry recognises, evaluates and organises comprehensive eye examination and management of the eye health and well-being of the public.

Rehabilitative Optometry and Low Vision Care attempts to make use of whatever vision is left to live an independent life. With low vision aids, persons with low vision could attempt to live a normal life.

Optometrists also render services on the efficient and safe visual functioning of the individual within the work place. The Optometrist plays a role in helping to understand the link between the condition of the eye and the general health and brain health.

It is not uncommon for conditions like diabetes and hypertension to show themselves as changes in vision or the internal appearance of the eye. When detected, appropriate referral to the healthcare provider has helped in addressing these issues.

Glaucoma is also known as the “thief of sight”, can be detected during eye examinations. Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes progressive damage of the optic nerve at the point where it leaves the eye to carry visual information to the brain. Once incurred, visual damage is mostly irreversible and this has led to glaucoma being described as the “thief of sight”.

Glaucoma is the second most common cause of blindness worldwide.
An individual may also be discovered to have binocularity problems in which the eye has challenges in working as a team or unit. Such a person may complain of headaches, eye strain etc. Vision training or orthoptics would go a long way in helping such individuals.

Age-related conditions such as cataract and age-related macular degeneration can be picked up during eye examinations. Early detection and management would help in preventing total vision loss.

Everything that is good for your body will also be good for your eyes. Eat healthy diet, rest well, drink plenty of water, dietary intake of fish, fresh fruits and vegetables is good for your eyes. Regular eye examination is important to protect your sight and general health as many of the conditions that may threaten your sight may not show obvious symptoms until the disease has reached an advanced stage.

Dr. Emurotu is a Delta State-based optometrist.



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