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‘What you must do to maintain good eyesight’

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An opthalmologist attending to a patient


Opara Okoye, who had always enjoyed good eyesight, noticed one day that his eyes were itchy and looking very red. At first, he did not give it much attention, thinking that the condition was temporary, perhaps due to the stress of that day. So, he assumed the eyes would soon return to normal. But to his dismay, the problem had worsened. Two days later, water started coming from the eyes and he was finding it hard seeing things properly.

Since his childhood friend, an ophthalmologist, had an eye clinic, he decided to go for an eye check to ascertain what the problem was.

“At the clinic, it was my friend that attended to me, even though he has seasoned professionals working for him,” Okoye recalled. “At the end of the day, however, he told me he could not detect any problem, and that my eyes would be okay. He gave me some eye drops and advised that I put on sunglasses when going out in the sun.”

Three more visits with the same diagnosis, Okoye knew it was time to go to another clinic, especially as the condition of the eyes had greatly worsened. In addition to the initial symptoms, he had started experiencing severe headache.

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Eventually, he was directed to a bigger and better equipped eye clinic run by the Catholic mission. And it was here that the problem was properly diagnosed and the necessary solution proffered. After undergoing an eye surgery, his eyes have been cured.

Mrs. Bolatito Adepegba started seeing rainbow colours whenever she looked at yellow light. Not only that, she also noticed that she was feeling some pressure on her eyes, which was not there before.

After drawing her husband’s attention to the condition, he recommended an eye clinic close to his office on Lagos Island. After the initial screening, she was told there was nothing wrong with her eyes. She was given an eye drop to use because she complained of seeing the rainbow colours around yellow light. Still, the doctor that attended to her insisted that ‘the background of her eyes was perfect’ and that no serious issue was diagnosed. They also changed her reading glasses, telling her that that could add to the problem.

“Although I used the eye drop as recommended, there was no improvement. The pressure on my eyes got worse and I continued seeing the rainbow colours, which I learned was not a good development. I complained to my husband and he also said I should keep on using the medicated eyeglasses they gave me at the clinic. But I knew something was seriously wrong with my eyes,” Adepegba said.

It was in the course of telling people about her eye problem that someone eventually directed her to the same eye clinic Okoye got his cure.

“At the Catholic eye centre, I was diagnosed of glaucoma and was placed on treatment accordingly. Since I started attending the clinic, there has been so much improvement and my eyes are doing very well. Imagine if I had been careless and had not taken the issue seriously. Who knows what would have happened to my eyes, if I had relied on the first eye clinic’s diagnosis? Glaucoma is a serious eye problem that can lead to blindness,” Adepegba said.

The clinics both Okoye and Adepegba initially attended had one thing in common: They only boasted of one machine, whereas the Catholic eye centre, where they got cured paraded an array of sophisticated appliances that enabled thorough screening and examination that yielded accurate diagnosis and pertinent treatment.

Based on their experiences, Okoye and Adepegba strongly advise against patronising eye clinics that are not well-equipped or ‘under-equipped’, as these are not in the best position to correctly diagnose eye problems. In their view, such eye clinics should be banned from practising, as their inability to properly screen and treat eye problems could result in people losing their sight or complicating the issues further.

However, Professor Adebukola Adefule-Ositelu, an ophthalmologist, said there is nothing wrong in eye clinics having one or two basic ophthalmology equipment. To her, what really matters is the training and capacity of the professional doing the screening.

She said: “If the professional is well trained, even with just one machine, he or she should have a rough idea of what is wrong with that particular patient’s vision. With such standard equipment as ophthalmoscope and pen torch, you are good to go, although other equipment is needed to confirm the initial diagnosis. Certainly, having one machine is not good enough, but if that is the situation on ground, what do you do? You just maximise your effort and ability to diagnose well.

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“The ophthalmology tools are just not there, because they are so expensive. And if you buy one machine today, by next year, another model is out. Where is the money to purchase them? We have standard equipment that are indispensable, and these must be upgraded from time to time.”

This probably explains why majority of eye clinics in the country are not so well equipped, especially those being operated by individuals. Aside this factor, Adefule-Ositelu explained that like all other areas of care system in the country, there are not enough professionals in the sector.

She said: “We don’t have enough doctors and professionals in the country, which is affecting every specialty and not just eye hospitals and clinics. Combine this with frustration, which is driving professionals away from the country in search of job satisfaction and better remuneration abroad and you have the worrisome situation currently in the country. As the doctors are leaving, so also the nurses, pharmacists and other medical personnel.

“However, it is a global thing and not just limited to Nigeria. There can never be enough medical personnel, but it is only acute in Nigeria because the condition of service is very bad here.”

What this boils down to is that individuals have to take their fate in their hands by ensuring they care for their eyes through eating right and healthy and going for regular eye check. In this wise, there is need to go to well equipped eye clinics or attend two clinics for proper diagnosis, in the case of clinics with one or two machines.

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“People must go for eye check at least once a year, except they have issues with their eyes, in which case it is mandatory to see an eye doctor as often as is recommended,” Adefule-Ositelu said. “It is also very advisable that families pass their medical history down the generations, so that everyone in that family knows the medical conditions prevalent or genetic in the family. For instance, some families have glaucoma, cataract, diabetes and hypertension early in age or have organ problems. The earlier they know the history the better to enable them seek medical attention and properly manage their health and go for more comfortable healthcare.”

As nutrition plays a huge role in the individual’s overall health and wellbeing, the eyesight also stands to benefit from balanced diet. So, eating good food, with plenty fruits, vegetables and water is essential to maintaining the sight and health of the eyes.

“Natural products are good for the eyes,” Adefule-Ositelu explained. “Taking fruits and vegetables, especially when they are in season is recommended. There is a reason for their coming out at that particular time. Natural products and supplements are also good. Individuals need every aspect of the balanced diet: carbohydrates, protein, good fats and oils, which provide the body with needed vitamins and minerals.

“Taking all kinds of red coloured fruits and vegetables are good for the eyes. These include carrot, beetroot, pawpaw, watermelon and leafy vegetables. Also, red peppers and tomatoes among others are good. Consuming plenty of water is not only good for the eyes, but is also good for the body generally.

“There are some exercises that help to strengthen the eyes and maintain good vision. It is just a matter of being health conscious and doing the needful.”

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