Watch out, you could become blind, say experts

Published on 05/02/2009

By Winsley Masese

Cases of blindness are on the rise and experts have warned eye ailments could spiral out of control by 2020.

The experts have called for urgent measures and at the same time decried a shortage of eye specialists in public hospitals as well as lack of facilities.

The 2005-2010 National Strategic Plan, indicates there are about 224,000 blind people in Kenya with the prevalence standing at 0.7 per cent.

The World Health Organisation says the number of blind people globally would rise to 75 million by 2020, if nothing was done to reverse the trend.

Currently, more than 45 million people are blind in the world. Of this, 80 per cent are 50 years and above with 1.4 million being children.

In Kenya, eye diseases are ranked eighth among the top common diseases. Cataract, trachoma and glaucoma are the major causes of blindness, with cataract accounting for 43 per cent.

Elderly people are at risk of contacting cataract, which occurs when the eye lenses become opaque, meaning no light goes through.

Dr D M Mutie, an ophthalmologist at Nyanza Provincial General Hospital told The Standard yesterday that many Kenyans, especially the poor, were threatened with blindness.

“Given the biological changes taking place, those above 40 are at risk of getting cataract,” she said.

Could be inherited

Children are also at risk of developing cataract through hereditary. Majority of childhood blindness occurs before age five, a period when 75 per cent of learning is through sight.

Ms Mercy Mbai, an ophthalmic nurse at Sabatia Eye Hospital, advises people to go for eye check-ups at an early age to avert complications.

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