For 22 years Beth Neri has been battling glaucoma, a condition that damages the eyes’ optic nerves. The condition is mostly caused by high pressure in the eyes.
Neri, 32, has children battling the same condition, which is expensive without health insurance.
“I spent Sh10,000 on each child’s spectacles. The optometrist advised us to do regular checkups to monitor their conditiong. It’s overwhelming,” she said.
James Mwenia also said he had to buy spectacles for her two children aged 10 and 16. Both suffered severe migraines until anti-glare eye glasses were recommended to reduce strain while on devices.
Dr Ezron Kibet, an optometrist, said glaucoma, the leading cause of blindness, especially for people aged 60 and above, can be inherited.
He argued that most eye problems result from uncorrected refractive errors (URE) - a condition where someone needs glasses to better their vision, but they do not seek to. The most common are myopia hyperopia, astigmatism and presbyopia.
“Young people are recording many refractive errors from exposure to more gadgets. The emission of blue light by these devices while reading, writing, doing computer work, or drawing for long periods of time may cause eye strain and headache,” said Dr Kibet.
He advised those exposed to long use of gadgets to take 20 minutes and stare at an object 20 metres away for 20 seconds (20.20.20 rule) which helps in maintaining normal blinking rate.
“By 2050, half of the world’s population may be short-sighted,” said Dr Kibet.
Kelly Kendi, an optician, said an average of 10 patients go for spectacles which she pegs on lack of eye check-ups.
“It’s recommended to have check-ups at least twice a year,” she said.
Dr Fredrick Korir, the chairperson of Ophthalmological Society of Kenya, said the professional body has noticed an upsurge in Kenyans seeking eye care services.
“Other diseases are prioritised leaving out eye care hence creating an impression that it is not significant, he said. “Eye care is also a crucial element of healthcare.”
He pointed out that cataracts are common among the elderly and urged them to seek medical attention. “Cataracts can be treated but can cause blindness if left untreated.”