Nigeria: Glaucoma specialist decries dearth of Opthalmologists, Optometrists in rural areas
A Consultant Ophthalmologist with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), College of Medicine of University of Lagos, Prof. Adeola Onakoya on Wednesday called on government at all levels to establish Vision Care Centres in rural areas to bring sub-specialist care to the unreached areas.
According to her, there is no presence of Ophthalmologists and Optometrists in rural areas, as majority are skewed to urban centres.
“Ophthalmologist population ratio is 1:350,000 but skewed to urban centres. If their only focus is in the urban centres, how then will the rural people gain access to quality and affordable care?
“How will a patient suffering an unknown eye disease like glaucoma gets care and understands fully well the complexity of the disease when he has zero knowledge.
“As we speak, 50 per cent of glaucoma sufferers in Nigeria are not aware of the disease; hence the need for professionals to explain to them.
“There is also the need for governments to establish Vision Centres that will be manned by glaucoma specialists, Optometrists and Ophthalmologists to attend to people with established cases,” she said.
According to Onakoya, government should support inclusion and diversity of staff for the Community Vision Centers.
“Also, they should encourage ownership of Care Centres through domestic resource mobilisation. By so doing, blindness due to glaucoma would reduce.
“Early detection of glaucoma through accurate diagnosis will further reduce the rate of blindness,’’ she said.
Onakoya said that glaucoma was the second most common cause of blindness after cataract, saying it remained a devastating affliction.
She said that 16.7 per cent of blindness in Nigerians above 40 years was caused by glaucoma; hence, the need to make its vision care an integral part of healthcare services.
Onakoya, also Chairman, Glaucoma Society of Nigeria, said the prevalence of blindness in Nigerian population above 40 years was 0.7 per cent.
The glaucoma specialist said the disease could not be prevented as the cause was unknown, saying that the burden still progressed in spite of intervention.
She said glaucoma as a disease could damage the optic nerve, which is the part of the eye that carries visual information to the brain and allows a person to see.
Onakoya explained that the normal eye contained a fluid called ‘Aqueous Humor’ which is a clear fluid that is continually produced within the eye.
She said the function of the fluid was to bathe and nourish the eye and that the fluid flows into the eye and drains out at the same rate, makes the eye maintained a steady pressure which she called “intraocular pressure’’.
Onakoya said that the fluid helps in maintaining the shape of the eyeball.