The story has been told of Opeyemi Adewale, a lady who lost her sight and is still trying to figure ut how it happened.
Now in her early 20s, the graduate of Political Science and International Relations, University of Lagos, became blind at 13.
The human resource practitioner said, “It all started in 2010. I was 13 years then and I was in SS1. As a science student, I wanted to study medicine.
“On that fateful day, when I came back from school, I was watching a cartoon network and all of a sudden, everything went blurry and blank. Initially, I thought it was an eclipse of the sun.
“So, I remained on that particular spot for everything to clear. But when my siblings came back from school and started walking around, I became worried.
“At that point, I became afraid, wondering why I wasn’t seeing again. So, I asked them how they were able to walk about in the dark and they started laughing, thinking I was joking.
“They went out to play and left me there. When my mother returned, I told her that I could not see again. She also thought I was joking.
“She stretched out her hand and asked me to touch her. When I could not locate her hand, it was then she realised that I was not joking. That was how I became blind till today.”
Running from pillar to post
She was later taken to different hospitals and eye centres, all of which reportedly told her that they could not find anything wrong with her eyes.
“All the opticians we met told us that my eyes were okay. Others said it was a spiritual attack. My mother had also taken me to various spiritual and traditional homes, yet no solution,” she explains, adding, “I have handed everything over to God. I believe that by His mercy, I will see someday. I believe in miracles.”
She also confesses that sudden blindness is devastating and that because she had been sighted before, coping with sudden, unexplainable blindness had been traumatic.
She said she had determined not to allow the situation to continue to weigh her down.
Causes of blindness
Experts say cataract, trachoma, uncorrected refractive error, onchocerciasis, childhood blindness, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy are the leading causes of blindness globally.
The Nigeria National Blindness and Visual Impairment Survey identified cataract, glaucoma, corneal diseases, trachoma, onchocerciasis and ocular trauma as major causes of blindness in the country.
One million Nigerian adults blind
According to a nongovernmental organisation, Sightsavers Nigeria, about one million adults are blind in Nigeria and another three million are visually impaired, while 42 out of every 1,000 adults aged 40 and above are blind.
The NGO based its statistics on a survey of blindness and low vision it carried out in Nigeria, in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Health. The year of the survey is uncertain, but the International Centre for Eye Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Health based related numbers on a survey conducted all over Nigeria between 2005 and 2007.
Again, an article published in the African Vision Eye and Health Journal, states that global estimates of visual impairment have been on the increase over the years.
In 2014, the World Health Organisation estimated that 285 million people were visually impaired, 39 million were blind and 246 million had low vision, with about 90 percent of those visually impaired living in developing countries.
Uncontrolled blood pressure can lead to sudden blindness
Speaking in an interview with PUNCH HealthWise, a Lecturer in the Department of Ophthalmology, Faculty of Clinical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Dr. Adegboyega Alabi, listed factors that could result in sudden blindness or vision loss.
Dr. Alabi explained, “The common cause of sudden blindness in our environment is uncontrolled blood pressure and, sometimes, diabetes.
“This occurs when people with uncontrolled blood pressure suddenly develop ischaemic attack, whereby the blood vessels supplying nutrients and blood to the retina sudden cut off.
“Sometimes, it could affect the major blood vessel at the back of the eye — what we call central retina artery.
“So, if you have blockage of the central retina artery, it could result in sudden blindness.”
Continuing, the physician said, “Sometimes, people living with sickle cell disease could have a blockage of their central retina vessel, leading to blood supply being cut off. So, vision can go down suddenly.
“Again, there are some rare congenital problems that somebody could have that can lead to sudden blindness. Retina detachment could also cause sudden vision loss.”
According to him, majority of retina detachments occur without really knowing the cause.
The ophthalmologist decried the lack of system in place to support blind people in the society.
Stating how people with sudden blindness could cope, Alabi said, “They should identify with members of the Nigeria Association of the Blind. They should take life with all enthusiasm and not allow the loss of vision to affect them. We need to make concerted effort to support them.”
Dr. Alabi urged the government to make adequate provision for people like that in the society.
Wrong use of eye medication can lead to blindness
Another eye expert and owner of Modern Eye Clinic, Lagos, Dr. Priscilla Imade, told PUNCH HealthWise that when eye medications are used wrongly, it could result in blindness.
The optometrist also noted that poorly managed eye condition could lead to blindness.
Dr. Imade however identified glaucoma as common cause of blindness in Nigeria.
“Glaucoma is one common example that make somebody to see today and tomorrow will not see again.
“There are many types of glaucoma. We also have juvenile glaucoma. So, both young and old can come down with glaucoma. But in Nigeria, what is common is primary open angle glaucoma — the one caused by high pressure in the eye,” she said.
According to her, the number of Nigerians coming down with glaucoma is increasing every day.
She attributed sedentary lifestyle and lack of regular eye check to the problem.
Dr. Imade pointed out that for blind people to cope, they need proper rehabilitation and support.
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