Blindness in Nigeria set to rise 40% — mostly preventable
5 October 2009
By 2020, 1.4 million Nigerians over age 40 will lose their sight, and
the vast majority of the causes are either preventable or treatable,
according to the Nigeria National Blindness and Visual Impairment Study
In the September issue of Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual
Science, the group shares the second half of the results of the
study, which examined almost 15,000 Nigerians over 40 between 2005 and
The goal of the study (Causes of Blindness and Visual Impairment
in Nigeria: The Nigeria National Blindness and Visual Impairment Survey)
was to help Nigeria create a plan for its participation in the World
Health Organization’s VISION 2020: The Right to Sight Initiative, which
is working globally to eliminate preventable blindness. The first half
of the study appeared in Investigative Ophthalmology earlier this year.
About 23% had some sort of visual impairment, and 4.2% were blind.
Cataracts were the most common cause of blindness, with glaucoma second.
Refractive errors (which cause nearsightedness, farsightedness and
astigmatisms) were frequently the cause of less serious visual
impairments. Other common treatable or preventable causes of visual
impairment included complications from diabetes, trachoma (a bacterial
infection of the eye) and the parasite onchocerciasis, which is
transmitted to humans through the bite of a black fly and is prevalent
“The high proportion of avoidable blindness … means that appropriate
and accessible refraction and surgical services need to be provided,”
the report states. “If priority attention is not given, the number of
blind and severely visually impaired adults in Nigeria will increase by
greater than 40 percent over the next decade.”
The study noted that groups that had less access to health care were
particularly vulnerable to preventable visual impairment.
According to the study, “The difference in the prevalence of vision
loss due to cataract between men and women, urban and rural areas, and
levels of education in Nigeria almost certainly reflects access to
services.” The authors recommended vision care plans that target women,
rural residents and the less educated.
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