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Common eye diseases in Zimbabwe

Cataract, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration and refractive errors are common eye diseases that could lead to loss of sight or visual impairment.

According to the World health Organization (WHO) 80% of blindness can be prevented. Here we look at the eye diseases that are considered priority diseases by the World Health Organization.

1. Cataract

Definition:
Cataract is the clouding of the eye lens. This prevents clear vision. Although most cases of cataract are age-related, occasionally children can be born with it. Cataract may also develop from eye injuries, inflammation of the eye and other eye diseases.

Prevalence
Cataract is the leading cause of blindness world-wide. According to the World Health Organization (2010) cataract is responsible for 51% of the world blindness or 20million people.

Treatment
Cataract can be treated surgically. The opaque lens is removed and replaced by an artificial one. The surgical treatment has a high success rate.

How to reduce the risks of cataract

  • Reduce or stop smoking altogether

  • Do not expose your eyes to ultraviolet light

  • If you are suffering from diabetes mellitus you will need to control it.

2. Glaucoma

Definition
A condition which causes retention of eye fluid in the eye thereby causing pressure within the eye which eventually leads to damage to the eye structures. This may lead to permanent blindness if not treated early.

Prevalence
12% of the world population or about 22,5 million are affected by Glaucoma. 5,6 million globally people are already blind from glaucoma. Glaucoma is common in individuals above 40 years of age.

Treatment
Prescribed eye drops and surgery.

3. Refractive error and low Vision

Refractive errors are a set of eye conditions that occur because of an irregular eye shape which affects the way light is focused in the eye- these conditions result in blurry or distorted vision.

Refractive errors include myopia (short-sightedness), and hypermetropia (long-sightedness) and astigmatism.

Prevalence

Severe refractive errors have been estimated to account for about 5 million blind people. According to WHO there are about 124 million people in the world with low vision. 25% of these could benefit from low vision services.

Treatment

Refractive errors can be corrected by the use of optical devices such as spectacles.

4. Diabetic retinopathy

Definition
Diabetic retinopathy is considered to be the result of vascular changes in the retinal circulation. It is a disease of the blood vessels in the retina. People with diabetes are at risk of developing this eye condition.

Prevalence
It is estimated that in 2002 diabetic retinopathy accounted for about 5% of world blindness,
representing almost 5 million blind. As the incidence of diabetes increases so will diabetic retinopathy if preventative precautions are not taken.

Treatment
Diabetic retinopathy is treated with laser surgery.

How to reduce the risk of diabetic retinopathy

People suffering from diabetes should

  • Have a comprehensive eye examination once a year.

  • Ensure that their blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels are under control.

  • Refrain from smoking.

Prevalence
According to WHO age related macular degeneration ranks third after cataract and glaucoma in causing blindness. The main risk is aging.