THE Federal Capital Territory Public Health Department has carried out eye screening at Ruga, close to Abuja City Gate, where children are going blind due to itchy eye infection.
The ICIR first reported how more than 20 children in the sprawling informal settlement were struggling to keep their sight while some of them had gone blind.
Uzoma Ogbonna, an epidemiologist, led the team from the Public Health Department on Wednesday to test the children and other members of the community who have eye problems.
Ogbonna told The ICIR that those with serious eye problems would be referred to hospitals for better treatment.
Okolo Oteri, a consultant ophthalmologist with the Federal Ministry of Health and the coordinator of National Eye Health Programme, also visited the community on Wednesday. She said she was in the community to assess the extent of the eye disease after reading The ICIR report.
“There’s no epidemic going on,” Oteri said. “We’re happy about that.”
She said what many of the children have is allergic conjunctivitis, an inflammation or infection of the outer membrane of the eyeball and the inner eyelid.
“Allergic conjunctivitis is a chronic condition” she said. “It causes that itching. With continuous itching, it turns what we call the conjunctiva to brown. The brownish colour is just an indication of chronic, untreated allergic conjunctivitis. For some of them, they have what we also call the venal type of allergic conjunctivitis which is more severe.”
Oteri explained that allergic conjunctivitis is common and it is unlikely to lead to blindness except when there is complication. She said when it is poorly treated, it can lead to cornea ulcer or opacities which may cause blindness.
“What we have here is generally eye disease which you will find in a normal population but the issue in this community is the lack of access to healthcare. So you can see a lot of them with untreated allergy, a lot of them with untreated refractive error.”
Oteri said along with partners, they would work on plan to have surgery for the children who need it and also ensure that those who require follow up treatment after the screening are attended to by eye specialists.