Sometime in March, I did a piece titled,’’ How healthy is your driver’’. In that piece, I tried to capture the story of Muyeed Sulai, a 48years old truck driver and a father of four whose thriving driving career was a beauty to behold. However, on March 1 2017, Muyeed’s thriving driving career hit the brick walls. Or so he thought as a medical test revealed he had been driving with two complicated health challenges unknowingly. He was among the over 1200 National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG)-PTD drivers hosted by FRSC  Zone6 Port Harcourt during the  second edition of the free medical outreach program tagged “Health-In-Motion Beyond The Road” in conjunction with the community health department of Shell Petroleum Development Company for tanker drivers, families and other road users. I did promise to reveal more health findings and that is my focus for this week.I do hope it will spur you to regularly check your drivers health status.

 Allergic conjunctivitis, presbyopia, retinopathy, myopia, glaucoma and cataract are the main ocular challenges among other ocular conditions the tanker drivers had based on the data collected during the medical outreach organized by the FRSC in collaboration with the SPDC for tanker drivers in Eleme refinery. Many of these drivers have never had any form of eye screening in their lives of which this outreach availed them this opportunity to do this check.

Allergic conjunctivitis is on the increase which could be as a result of the fact that these drivers are exposed to harsh, dusty and dry weather as they transport petroleum products from one part of the country to another with varying degrees of temperature which is invariably generally high. Severe itching and astenopic conditions that follow if untreated can lead to lack of concentration on the driver’s part especially while driving due to the fact that the driver continuously rubs the irritated eyes and derives joy from doing it.

Presbyopia is experienced by individuals 35/40 years and above. As individuals advanced in age there is tendency that the eye loses its accommodation. This means that the eye is unable to see prints that are at near except it is kept at a distance. This is predominantly found among these drivers who are within this age bracket.

Myopia, literarily known as shortsightedness is another case (which was diagnosed in about 3.5% of the eye conditions) that cannot be over looked. Individuals in this clique cannot see or read anything (objects, write ups etc) at far depending on the degree especially if it is spiced up with a certain level of Astigmatism (a type of refractive error). In such case a driver will be required not to drive without appropriate spectacle prescription.

A case of a 49year old driver with a blood pressure of about 160/100 with multiple conjunctival lypoma and matured grade 3 pterygium, on both sides of the two eyes, which has encroached into about 50% of his central vision, is a case to be concerned with. In the nearest future this driver may lose his vision if there is no immediate surgical intervention. Can this be achieved if this driver has remained ignorant and cannot afford this procedure? A sigh of relief was heaved when this driver retorted that he has quit driving since his condition got worse.

Another incident had a case of a driver about 41 years of age and had claimed to have driven for 20 years was diagnosed with a visual acuity 6/36 on both eyes as a result of retinopathy (disease of the retina). On further investigation, it was observed that this individual had unmanaged diabetes. He confessed that he was ignorant and that was the first time he was going through any form of eye screening. But the truth lies in the fact that this individual might not have been complaint with his drugs or recalcitrant in visiting a hospital or actually ignorant! He has quit driving since his vision deteriorated.

A 37 year old driver was diagnosed with severe blepharospam (uncontrolled blinking of the eyelids). In this case, when he blinks, it takes approximately 10 to 15 seconds for the lids to open and this with tremendous effort. Imagine when a driver of this caliber is driving a tanker with 33,000liters of PMS!

About 4% of the drivers who were screened had at least one of the different types of glaucoma which is characterized by having blurry and hazy vision, seeing haloes (rainbow rings) etc. This is another area of concern since this eye ailment does not have a cure but can be managed though best at its incipient stage.

Just a few of them had at least one of the different types of cataract which is either at an early stage or not ripe for surgery. The drivers in this category with visual acuity not safe for driving were advised to stop driving temporarily until they have undergone a surgical procedure.

Many of these drivers with these eye ailments that posed a threat to driving were virtually referred for further medical aid but how sure are we if these pieces of advice will be adhered to.

  Data obtained on Glaucoma from:World Sight Day outreach 2016: 4.5%,FRSC/SHELL Outreach 2016:  5.3%,FRSC/SHELL Outreach2017: 3.48%.This data is for glaucoma cases that were very conspicuous and in an advanced stage. There could be more cases if the necessary parameters are set in place for a comprehensive screening for glaucoma among selected drivers.