Nigeria Has 4,000 Registered Optometrists, 80% are in Private Practice

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From Kuni Tyessi in Abuja

With a population of almost 200 million, there are only 4,000 registered optometrists in Nigeria. 80 percent of these registered optometrists are in private practice due to government’s inability to engage them.

Optometry is a health care profession which involves examining the eyes and applicable visual systems for defects or abnormalities as well as the medical diagnosis and management of eye disease.

The national president of the Nigeria Optometrists Association, Dr.‎ Damian Echendu, who disclosed this weekend in Abuja, said the current state of the economy had also made it difficult for people to go for eye checks, thereby falling victims of quacks.

He said: “More than 80% of the 4,000 members are into private practice and why people prefer to go to public hospitals is because they are cheaper. In a situation whereby 80% of them are in private practice and with our economy which is very poor, it will be difficult for people to go and check their eyes.

“Optometrists, when they graduate, do not find places of internship and they don’t find places of employment. Government has not been engaging them. There should be an enabling environment because internship is very important. Some who are lucky go into private practice.”

He said the reason behind the rampant use of glasses had to do with genetics, ‘near tasks’ and constant reading as against farming which was prevalent so many years back.

“A lot of people do near tasks these days and there are a lot of readings on phones and the computer. All of these need to be done with the eye and what is called focusing mechanism, as the eye has to focus in order to see properly. Once people get to the ages of 30-40, the ability to focus decreases, just like the skin and other parts of the body. Another could be genetic.”

He described as a wrong practice, buying drugs over the counter without a doctor’s prescription or advice. Also, the use of urine, sugar or salt water as well as kerosene for eye treatment are unhealthy practices and should be discouraged, he said.