Members of the public urged to go for regular check-ups – Chronicle

The Chronicle
Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Senior Health Reporter
MEMBERS of the public have been urged to go for regular check-ups to avert eye disease and blindness which affect about 150 000 Zimbabweans including school children.
According to the Council for the Blind, in Zimbabwe about three quarters of people have a certain kind of eye problem which calls for consistent eye tests at least once a year.
Cataracts are the major cause of blindness in Zimbabwe but 75 percent of blindness can be surgically reversible or preventable.
In an interview, the executive director of the Council for the Blind, Mr Apples Nyathi, said most eye conditions can be addressed early if people are diligent in seeking eye care services consistently.
He said the national organisation is easily accessible even by rural folk as they regularly do visits to district hospitals in search of those in need of eye care services.
“We managed to resume our services after Covid-19 induced lock downs, in March this year and our teams are back to field visits across the country to raise awareness, screen and diagnose patients. We also treat those that can be treated immediately by our nurses and then refer those cases that need specialist’s attention to our surgeons who do the operations.
Most of these illnesses however do not require one to wear spectacles or undergo an operation hence we prescribe medication which can be bought to address the problems,” said Mr Nyathi.
“We have experts who are also able to diagnose the cause of these problems as some are a result of weather conditions and allergies mainly amongst school going children. We usually recommend some eye drops for this group but sometimes it’s hard to access given that this type of medication must be imitated hence the expense on the patients.”
Mr Nyathi said the council does at least 15 cataract operations per visit, a figure which is determined by availability of resources as the council is non-profit.
United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH)
“We also screen school going children as our wish is to cover every enrolled learner to ensure we prevent blindness even from an early age although most of the affected are those of age. We have discovered that three quarters of these normally have eye problems which we immediately address or refer to in case the condition requires specialist treatment.
“We know that people love buying shades from the streets, in as much as these have no effect they cannot be worn by someone with eye disease as they strictly need prescription glasses to avert blindness.”
Ms Nomathamsanqa Mashingaidze an expert from the council said there are eight major eye conditions prevalent in Zimbabwe, chief being cataracts.
She said cataracts, however, are easy to manage.

“We have noticed that a majority of our clients who are diagnosed with eye diseases have 100 percent sight restored once they seek medical attention.
Eye diseases include cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration and refractive errors. Other diseases are caused by allergies, paediatric eye conditions, trachoma and onchocerciasis. We do our best to raise awareness to vulnerable communities across the country so that we avert blindness,” she said.
“In terms of allergies, some suffer itchy or red eyes as they are allergic to grass, light and certain objects.
However, we have some minority groups like those living with Albinism who are at higher risk of developing eye problems which we also cater for. We have a low vision department at the United Bulawayo Hospitals where those with Albinism, those suffering from glaucoma and cataracts are treated.
Ms Mashingaidze called on members of the public to practice hygiene and not share towels to avoid infecting their eyes.
She said people should eat foods rich in Vitamin A like carrot, pumpkins, butternut and spinach .
“We also urge them to avoid going to traditional healers as that may worsen their conditions. A family once went to a healer who put his urine on a child’s eyes and unfortunately he had Gonorrhea which worsened the infection. They are free to come to our offices and seek advice as we are willing to help them prevent blindness and restore sight,” she said. – @thamamoe ‘
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