New Telegraph

December 8, 2023

Blindness, commonest cause of depression – Prof Abayomi

Globally, at least 2.2 billion people have a near or distance vision impairment, but statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that in at least one billion – or almost half – of these cases, vision impairment could have been prevented or has yet to be addressed, reports APPOLONIA ADEYEMI

Lagos State Government has championed the need for citizens to improve the health of their eyes by adopting good eye health care practices to prevent avoidable blindness and vision loss, which it described as the commonest causes of depression. Speaking at an even to mark the Year 2022 World Sight Day commemoration in Lagos State, the state Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi explained that as small as the human eyes are, they are so important to the wellbeing, state of mind and happiness of an individual such that the loss of eyesight is one of the commonest causes of depression.

According to him, this is because when you lose your sight or your sight is becoming impaired, you recognise how important that gift that you had of good sight is or has been. “And so today, we join the rest of the world to raise the understanding and to bring to the attention of our citizens the importance of protecting your eyes and doing things that will stop you from losing visual accuracy and know the right places to go to receive significant intervention.” Globally, at least 2.2 billion people have a near or distance vision impairment.

In at least one billion – or almost half – of these cases, vision impairment could have been prevented or has yet to be addressed, data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows. According to Sightsavers, about one million adults are blind in Nigeria and another three million are visually impaired (VI ) while 42 out of every 1000 adults aged 40 and above are blind. Sightsavers is an international non-governmental organisation that works with partners in developing countries to treat and prevent avoidable blindness, and promote equality for people with visual impairments and other disabilities.

A person that is aware of the progressive loss of visual acuteness may have feelings of insecurity, anxiety, loss of independence and changes in social functioning, leading to depression. According to medical experts, vision loss can affect one’s quality of life (QOL), independence, and mobility and has been linked to falls, injury, and worsened status in domains spanning mental health, cognition, social function, employment, and educational attainment.

However, quoting available data, Abayomi said that eight out of every ten impairment of sight is caused by conditions that can be easily prevented or, when they occur, can be treated. “And so there are eight people out of every ten blind people that are walking around with lack of eyesight because they failed to have access to a prevention or a treatment strategy,” he said, adding, “That is a very sad statistics.”

The Lagos State commissioner for health explained that citizens should improve the health of their eyes by eating healthy diets, going for regular eye checks, protecting the eye from injury and trauma, avoid self-medication, avoid patronising quacks and wear sunglasses that offer ultraviolet (UV) protection to prevent radiation from the sun damaging the eyes. Other good eye health care practices according to him include, avoid playing with sharp objects, avoid instilling injurious substance into the eyes, avoid smoking, exercising regularly, visiting only certified ophthalmic eye hospital if you have eye complaints, wear only prescribed glasses from an eye care provider and checking and controlling blood sugar and blood pressure levels. Abayomi noted that the need to create awareness and draw attention to eye health as a local and global health issue cannot be emphasised, stressing that eye health impacts the quality of life, education, employment and all areas of life of an individual.

In his words: “There is so much to see in this beautiful world but this is only possible if your eyes are in good condition. The occasion of the year 2022 World Sight Day, presents another opportunity to remind us that we must all give attention to our vision and protect our eyes from blinding eye conditions; vision is what must come first and protecting eyesight is what is extremely important.”

“The theme for this year’s World Sight Day, “Love Your Eyes, Save Lives”, is a reminder for everyone to love their eyes, protect it and give attention to their vision, to love your eyes is about being aware and maintaining your eye health,” he added. The commissioner disclosed that the state government will intensify its eye healthcare education, sensitisation and enlightenment campaigns especially in rural and riverine communities and hard to reach areas to raise the consciousness of citizens on blindness prevention and good eye care practices. This, he said, would be done employing methods used for community and rural outreaches.

“The objective of this kind of activity is to raise public awareness and public understanding around a public health issue, and the public health issue we are talking about now is the protection and maintenance of one of the most important senses that we have as human beings, which is the sense of visual, sight and more importantly, visual acuity (VA). VA is a measure of the ability of the eye to distinguish shapes and the details of objects at a given distance. It is important to assess VA in a consistent way in order to detect any changes in vision.

One eye is tested at a time. Speaking further on measures to protect the eyes, Abayomi said, “So, on occasions like this, we try to raise the importance of public health measures to protect and preserve accuracy of eyesight. The eyes are very delicate organ; they are actually an extension of your brain that comes out onto the surface of your face, and any slight injury or slight alteration of the environment, either by infection, trauma or the application of the wrong drugs or drops, can cause significant damage,” Abayomi stated.

He noted that common diseases like sickle cells, high blood pressure and diabetes, if not detected early and treated by the medical professional, can affect the eyes and cause serious damage to the eyes. He disclosed that the State Government through its Blindness Prevention Programme has screened over 600,000 people for eye defects, offered free eye glasses to 240,000 citizens and provided free surgical intervention to 30,000 others across the state.

On her part, the Director, Medical Administration, Training and Programmes, Dr. Olufunmilayo Shokunbi disclosed that eye care activities in Lagos “Strongly show how much importance this present government has placed on eye care for the citizens of the state. The Ministry of Health is committed to implementing policies and programmes that will ultimately reduce and eliminate blindness amongst the citizenry,” Shokunbi said.

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