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Go for regular eye check-ups, residents urged

Kajiado County residents have been urged to go for regular eye check-ups so as to save sight.

According to Dr. Michael Gichangi, Head of Ophthalmic Services at the Ministry of Health, many cases of blindness could be prevented if early treatment is sought.

In a speech read on his behalf in an event to mark the World Sight Day in Kajiado town, Gichangi revealed that out of a population of 1.5million people in Kajiado County, there were about 230,000 needing eye care services.

A total of 7, 500 people in the county are completely blind, 80 per cent of the cases of blindness would have been prevented if those affected sought early treatment.

“With a population of about 1.5 million, 7, 500 are blind. It is sad to know this since 80 per cent of them do not have to be blind, because it can be prevented, like Trachoma, or cured by surgery like cataract or corneal diseases,” he said.

Age-related cataract, corneal diseases and refractive errors (short sightedness and Long-sightedness) and complications of non-communicable diseases like diabetes are some of the disorders causing visual impairment.

Trachoma, is also prevalent in Kajiado County due to the dry and dusty conditions witnessed in the area. The bacterial infection affects the eye conjunctiva and is contracted through fingers, eyes and flies.

The disease is prevalent among pastoralist communities as livestock are kept in close proximity to the households propagating the breeding of flies which spread trachoma.

The eye blinding infection is preventable through practicing proper hygiene like face and hand washing. Unlike cataract, blindness caused by Trachoma is not reversible through surgery.

Gichangi noted that lack of awareness has been an obstacle in managing eye complications. The high cost also makes the vulnerable in society not to seek the services.

Poor eye hygiene, lack of equipped eye facilities and limited eye specialists has also contributed to the high number of eye ailments and blindness.

“Lack of a skilled workforce has been identified as the biggest challenge in addressing the rising burden of blindness. In Kajiado County, a total of six Ophthalmologists are required to adequately serve a population of about 1.5 million,” Gichangi added.

Dr. Rebecca Oenga, an Ophthalmologist at the Kajiado County Referral Hospital, reiterated that many eye ailments could be treated if diagnosed at an early stage.

She noted that many residents, especially the elderly, do not seek treatment due to varied reasons such as poverty, ignorance, fear of surgery and cultural beliefs resulting in loss of sight.

“Patients only seek treatment as a last resort after they have already become blind and not much can be done. Some procedures such as removal of cataracts take less than 30 minutes and end up saving sight,” she added.

Alice Mwangi, from Operation Eyesight, revealed that they were conducting door to door eye screening in rural areas.

Mwangi added that Operation Eyesight in conjunction with Christian Blind Mission (CBM) is building a state of the art eye clinic complex at the Kajiado Referral Hospital which will serve residents suffering from eye ailments.

Kajiado Governor Joseph Ole Lenku welcomed the building of the centre adding that it would be a huge relief to locals seeking eye services in the county. The Sh15 million state of the art complex is expected to be completed in the next six months.

By Rop Janet

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