Gondar (Ethiopia) Eye Surgery
Eye disease in Ethiopia
In Ethiopia 1.6% of the population is blind. Over double this number is measured as having low vision.
Of the people who are totally blind (1,250,000) just under half are blind from cataract. This means there are 600,000 waiting for cataract surgery.
Preventable or treatable blindness affects 70% of those totally blind and 80% of those labelled as having low vision.
The major eye problems of the country are:
The incidence of this condition is the same as in other parts of Africa. The large numbers of totally blind is mainly because of lack of access to treatment. Successful surgical management of cataract for the older age group is becoming more important to compensate for the loss of people from the earning middle age group from HIV / AIDS.
It is estimated that 85% of people in Northern Ethiopia show signs of having contact with this infection which is due to Chlamidia. In middle life this can lead to blindness.
Recurrent infections by the organism which is spread by flies moving from person to person feeding from eye and nose secretions eventually cause scarring of the lids. The lids turn inwards and the eyelashes rub the front of the eye cause painful scarring.
Management includes access to water for face washing, use of a cheap antibiotic eye ointment locally, donated oral antibiotic tablets and surgery when the eyelids turn in. These managements can be delivered very cheaply by an informed health professional.
Lack of spectacle corrections
This is due to lack of access to vision testing by optometrists, lack of availability of spectacles and lack of manufacturing facility in Ethiopia.
Blindness is mainly due to a dietary low level of Vitamin A in young children in rural areas, especially in Amhara Region. At certain times these children are tipped over into frank Vitamin A deficiency. This causes a very rapid onset of eye signs leading to melting of the front surface of the eye.
Treatment depends on spotting the eye signs early (or the night blindness) and giving Vitamin A capsules which are very cheap. Prophylaxis at the appropriate time by low level health professionals is also possible.