Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and is home to over 200 million people, making it one of the most densely populated countries in the world. It is estimated that 4.25 million adults aged ≥40 years have moderate to severe eye disease or blindness. Allergic conjunctivitis (17.8), age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma (16.7%), cornea opacity, refractive errors (14.3%), and ocular trauma (21.7%) are known to be the major causes of eye disorders in Nigeria. Ocular injury was more common in males (p=0.002) and children aged 6–10 years, and 87.1% of these cases were closed-globe injuries. 80% of blindness cases are preventable and curable.
Common Eye Disorders and Diseases
A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of your eyes. It is prevalent in adults at the age of above 40 years. It can cause permanent vision loss if left untreated. According to the Nigerian National Blindness and Visual Impairment Survey (NNBVIS), conducted in 2018, cataracts accounted for approx 43% of visual impairment cases in Nigeria. The study estimated that 7.2% of the Nigerian population over 40 had cataracts in one or both eyes.
Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, often leading to blindness or irreversible vision loss. It is a significant cause of blindness around the world. Glaucoma accounted for approximately 16.7% of visual impairment cases in Nigeria. The study showed that 5.2% of Nigerians over the age of 40 had glaucoma.
- Refractive Errors
Refractive errors are a major eye problem. Hyperopia (farsightedness), myopia (nearsightedness), and astigmatism are common eye problems that affect people of all ages. According to research, refractive errors were responsible for approximately 18% of visual impairment cases in Nigeria. The study also revealed that the prevalence of uncorrected refractive errors was higher in urban areas than rural areas.
- Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that affects the blood vessels in the retina, potentially leading to vision loss. According to NNBVIS, there are approximately 5% of visual impairment cases in Nigeria of diabetic retinopathy.
- Age-Related Macular Degeneration
AMD is an eye disorder associated with aging and outcomes in damaging sharp and central vision. Central vision is required to see objects clearly and perform daily tasks such as reading and driving. AMD affects the macula (the central part of the retina that allows the eye to see fine details).
Factors Contributing to the Prevalence of Eye Problems
- Limited Access to Eye Care Services
Eye examinations and surgical interventions are limited in many parts of Nigeria, mainly in rural areas. Access to eye care services is necessary for people to receive timely treatment for eye conditions.
- Lack of Awareness and Education
Lack of awareness about eye health and the importance of timely treatment contributes to the prevalence of eye diseases. Many people in Nigeria are unaware of the signs and symptoms of eye problems.
- Affordability and Financing Factor
Poverty and lack of financial resources can prevent people from seeking eye care when needed. The cost of eye examinations, treatment, and eyeglasses can be prohibitive for many Nigerians.
- Inadequate Healthcare Services
The healthcare services face various challenges, including the lack of eye clinics in Nigeria, shortage of skilled eye care professionals, insufficient equipment and technology, and limited funding for eye care programs.
National Policies to Prevent Eye Problems in Nigeria
There are several initiatives and strategies that have been implemented to address the high prevalence of eye problems in Nigeria:
- National Eye Health Strategic Plan
Nigeria has initiated national eye health programs aimed at reducing the burden of eye diseases. This plan focuses on spreading awareness, providing eye care services, and conducting outreach activities in underserved communities.
- NPHCDA Minimum Standards for PHC in Nigeria (2015)
These standards provide a framework, such as chloramphenicol eye drops and ointment and chlortetracycline ointment, for delivering essential healthcare services at the primary level. They encompass guidelines for infrastructure, staffing, equipment, and service delivery to ensure quality healthcare is accessible to all Nigerians at the grassroots level.
- National Primary Health Care Development Agency
- Integrating PHC Governance in Nigeria
- PHC under one roof (2016)
This program aimed to streamline primary healthcare governance by consolidating various PHC functions under a single authority. By doing so, it sought to improve coordination, efficiency, and service delivery within the country’s primary healthcare system, ultimately enhancing the overall healthcare outcomes for Nigerians.
- National Health Policy (2016)
It aims to provide universal access to quality healthcare services, focusing on preventive, promotive, curative, and rehabilitative care. It also strives to achieve the “Health for All” goal by addressing various health challenges and improving healthcare delivery nationwide.
- National Strategic Health Development Plan (2018–2022)
This framework addresses a nation’s health needs and challenges. It outlined strategies for improving healthcare access, quality, and outcomes while focusing on critical areas such as disease prevention, infrastructure development, and human resource capacity building.
- National Eye Health Policy (2019)
It aims to prioritize and improve eye health services nationwide. It focuses on preventing, detecting, and treating eye diseases, particularly in vulnerable populations. The policy promotes research and innovation in eye health and advocates for public awareness and education. Its overarching goal is to ensure equitable access to quality eye care for all citizens.