Cataract  remains a leading  cause of blindness  in Nigeria

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Yemisi Ajayi ,Ibadan

The Group Managing Director, Dr Benedictus Ajayi, has said that cataract remains a leading cause of blindness and visual impairment in the country.

Ajayi who said that the institute performs not less than 5000 cataract surgeries every year, disclosing  this at the formal opening of the SKT-ALCON PHACO Training Institute and Ultramodern Cataract Surgery Suit and Lasers on Tuesday in Ibadan.

Ajayi, a consultant opthalmologist, said that the newly equipped training institute would help address the problem of medical tourism and contribute towards the goal of tackling and preventing cataract blindness in the country.

According to him the ultramodern cataract surgery suite and lasers will provide the phacoemulsification “phaco” and laser-assisted cataract surgery  which is currently the most common type of cataract procedure performed in the developed countries.

The opthalmologist said that the laser-assisted catract surgery will offer a higher level of precision for certain steps in a cataract procedure.

“I get emotional every time I see a blind or visually impaired person.

“However, with cutting edge technological innovation, the reversal of cataract blindness is getting easier and easier.

“Today we are gathered here to present to Nigerians one of the newest technologies in cataract surgery.

“Herein lies a complete surgical suite  with a too range phaco-machine and operating microscope equipped with artificial intelligence.

“This is Phase One and within the next few months, Eleta will aquire a Vitreeo-Retinal equipment, which costs about 250000 dollars, to increase its reach in eye surgery.

“Once this has been acquired and installed, Nigerians would no longer need to travel outside the country for any type of eye surgery because eye care destination tourism will be here in Ibadan,’ he said.

The opthalmologist said that Eleta Eye Institute has trained over 100 ophthalmologists  since its inception to address the shortage of skilled manpower in eye care and increase access to quality eye care and timely intervention.

According to him a lot of people suffer from visual impairment and go blind due to low access to quality eye care and about half of cataract procedures  are performed by herbalists.

“As an institute we exist to provide excellence of service to the rich and the poor.

“One per cent of adults of over the age of 40 are visually impaired as a result of cataracts and most cataract surgeries are performed by quacks.

“Eleta Eye Institute is foremost in providing  surgical skill and training as well as hands-on experience to our residents.

“We are set to go higher by training Nigerian doctors in highly skilled phaco surgery and we are grateful to SKT-Alcon for their partnership and support,” he said.

The Managing Director of SKT Pharmaceutical, Dr Dung Nuhu,  said that the  phaco procedure commonly known as a Drive-in Drive Out (DIDO) surgery is performed within 90 minutes without overnight hospital stays.

Nuhu said that the modern cataract procedure usually helps restore vision lost to cataracts and reduce  dependence on eyeglasses after surgery.

“In 2010, 12 million Nigerians had cataracts and the National Eye Institute  has projected that the number is likely to grow to 30.2 million bu the year 2059.

“Thankfully phaco cataract surgery is one of the safest and most effective surgical procedures for tackling the scourge of catracts.

“Many cataract surgeries in Nigeria still involve the use of over 2000 year old traditional method called couching most often with poor results.

“Other conventional surgical techniques for cataract removal though result in good visual outcomes may require a patient to be on admission for up to 3weeks.

“The phaco procedure is called the drive in drive out procedure because it promotes faster healing, reduces risk of postoperative astigmatism and complications like retinal detachment.

“An uncomplicated phaco surgery lasts only about 15 minutes for experienced surgeons while the extra minutes is for preoperative and postoperative medications and evaluation.

“Most patients find it easy to resume their usual activities within two to three days of surgery including TV watching, reading, driving and resuming official duties,.

“This is why we are here today to commission one of the world’s best cataract surgery machine with state-of-the-art theatre facilities, ” he said.

Dr Ayobade Ogundipe, the President, Opthalmological Society of Nigeria, said that 95 per cent of cataract surgery is highly successful with favourable outcomes.

Ogundipe, a consultant opthalmologist at the University College Hospital, Ibadan said that fear of surgery and hospitals, high cost of surgery, low level of awareness and poor access to quality eye care are major factors for low cataract surgery demand in the country.

He advised people to seek the help of an opthalmologist immediately cataract is noticed to prevent permanent blindness and loss of vision.

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