Kenyans watch blindness amid high cost of eye treatment

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Kenyans watch blindness amid high cost of eye treatment


Diana Langat, an optometrist examines Cybil Ambogo using an eye trial frame at Lapaire Glasses in Nairobi on May 15, 2021. PHOTO | BONFACE BOGITA | NMG

Summary

  • Inadequate specialists and the high cost of treating eye problems have resulted in severe visual impairment in millions of people around the world.

When 25-year-old Cybill Ambogo was diagnosed with myopia (myopia), she was unaware of the struggle that awaited her to seek treatment.

She started having problems with her eyesight in 2012 when she was a student.

“At school, I used to sit at the back of the class most of the time. I was perfectly normal, but one day I couldn’t see the board well. I thought the problem could be solved by walking past the class, ”she said.

His vision became dim, especially in well-lit areas.

“I had trouble reading the white exam papers,” she says.

Ms. Ambogo’s main challenge was having access to an ophthalmologist to diagnose her disease and affordability of services.

“I was a student in Kakamega and there was no specialist near me. I had to travel to the nearby town of Kisumu for medical treatment and even to get an appropriate pair of glasses, ”she says.

But even after consulting with an eye specialist, it was still a challenge to afford proper glasses which cost 8,700 Sh.

Inadequate specialists and the high cost of treating eye problems have resulted in severe visual impairment in millions of people around the world.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 28 million people worldwide suffer from severe visual impairment, of which 750,000 are Kenyans.

WHO data also indicates that of the 39 million people living with blindness worldwide, 224,000 are Kenyans, with 80 percent of blindness in the country due to causes that can be cured and prevented.

Data collected from the Lapaire Group, a parent company of Lapaire Kenya, a Nairobi-based eyewear company, indicates that eye problems found in many people are preventable.

ophthalmologists

According to the company which has tested more than 60,000 people across the continent, although there is very limited data due to the lack of local studies, 60% of visually impaired people are due to refractive errors, which is therefore avoidable.

The types of refractive errors are myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (hyperopia), presbyopia (loss of near vision with age) and astigmatism, a problem caused by an error in the form of the cornea.

Diana Lang’at, an optometrist in Nairobi, explains that various factors have contributed to the high number of visually impaired Kenyans, including poverty, lack of public awareness of vision problems, difficult and expensive access to ophthalmologists and optometrists, high cost of spectacle frames and lenses, and non-coverage of optical care by many employers.

The ratio of ophthalmologists to population in Kenya is 1: 600,000, which is lower than the WHO recommendation of 1: 250,000.

In Africa, an estimated 550 million people need glasses but barely 1% have access to them.

In addition, the Ministry of Health estimates that 15.5% of Kenyans need quality eye care services, ranging from surgeries, treatments and eyeglass corrections, but only about a fifth have access to eye health services.

According to Ms. Lang’at, affordability has led many people to share or buy glasses on the street.

“One thing people need to understand is that even if you are diagnosed with the same problem as the next person, the extent of the problem usually differs, so the lenses prescribed are usually very specific,” says Ms. Lang’at. .

There is also the immense danger of getting any type of glasses on the street.

TV watch rule

“If you wear the wrong glasses, there is a possibility of developing permanent retinal detachment, a condition that could be irreversible. It could create an even more complicated situation that even with the best glasses you still won’t be able to see well, ”she adds.

With this, experts recommend that the best and cheapest way to prevent such complications is prevention.

“It all depends on the lifestyle, and in particular what you eat. It is important to eat a healthy diet, to drink plenty of water to keep your eyes in good shape, ”she says.

The switch to computer work and frenzied television is also harmful to the eyes.

“For people who spend most of their time on computers or phones, I recommend that they use the 20-20-20 rule, where after every 20 minutes of working on your gadget, you take a break from 20 seconds to focus on things that are 20 feet away, ”she says.

According to Ms. Lang’at, almost everyone will have a refractive error in their lifetime, the affordability of glasses needs to be addressed.

“We also need to educate our community about refractive errors and other vision problems, and their impact on people’s daily lives,” she said.


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