8,000 Children are visually impaired

About 8,000 children below 15 years are visually impaired in Ghana.

The major causes of childhood blindness are malnutrition, measles, vitamin A deficiency, use of harmful traditional eye medicine among others. The Director of Eye Care, Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Oscar Debrah, who disclosed this in an interview with the Junior Graphic said some eye diseases in children which often led to blindness could have been prevented if detected early.

He, therefore, asked parents to look out for any abnormalities in their babies’ eyes when they are born.

Dr Debrah asked parents to be suspicious when the eyes of children begin to discharge any fluids or are bigger than normal.

He also said that if a baby closes or turns away the eyes when it sees light around the period that it is one week old or right after birth, parents should report to the clinic.

He added that if parents notice that the cornea or black part of the eye was white or hazy and also has a white patch in the centre of the cornea, it could be congenital glaucoma or congenital cataract and should not be ignored.

Dr Debrah said when this occurred parents should take the child to a health facility for further tests since some of such conditions could be corrected or the mother would be advised to bring the child to the hospital for assessment at a later date.

“Usually parents delay in sending such babies to a health facility with the excuse that the baby was too young. They wait for over a year by which time some of the damages would have become permanent”, he explained.

He encouraged parents to send their children regularly for immunisation so that some of the major causes of childhood blindness such as measles or vitamin A deficiency could be prevented.

He was happy to note that due to the frequent immunisation programmes, the cases of cornea scar which is as a result of these diseases have been reduced.

Dr Debrah said when children played with sharp objects such as pencils and pens or broomsticks which were usually infected if they accidentally pierced the eye it caused trauma to the eye.

When this remained untreated, Dr Debrah said it could also result in blindness and advised parents, guardians and teachers to discourage children, from playing with sharp objects.

He said before a child starts school, he/she should go for a refraction test ( vision test ) because a child could suffer from long or short sightedness and might need glasses to correct it else that could affect his or her academic performance because reading from the blackboard or notes would be difficult.

Dr Debrah said if a child needed spectacles it was important for parents not to refuse to provide it because wearing spectacles corrected the problem.

He also advised students to use bright lights to study when the lights go off so that they do not strain their eyes.

source : graphic online

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