The prevalence, types and effects of traditional eye medicine use among newly presenting patients at Sekuru Kaguvi Hospital Eye Unit in Harare, Zimbabwe

  • Y Jaya
  • R Masanganise


Background: The use of Traditional Medicines (TM) is common practice world over. Traditional Eye Medicine (TEM) use may be associated with various ocular complications including blindness. A study on the prevalence of TEM use was carried out at Sekuru Kaguvi Hospital Eye Unit (SKHEU) in Harare, with emphasis on the types of TEM used and associated ocular complications.

Objectives: To evaluate the prevalence of TEM use among newly-presenting patients at SKHEU. To identify the ocular symptoms experienced by the new clinic-attendees who had used TEM for their current eye problem. To characterize the TEM used, in terms of type, source (provider) and routes of administration. To evaluate any association between TEM use and legal blindness at presentation, destructive eye procedures and other specific ocular complications among these patients.

Design: Hospital-based, cross-sectional analytic study.

Methods: All new patients attending one randomly selected clinic per week were recruited for the study over a period of eight months. The patients had a full clinical examination and data collected.

Results: The prevalence of TEM use among new patients at SKHEU was 61.5%. The initial ocular symptoms prior to the use of TEM were mainly those of ocular surface inflammation: tearing (77.4%), redness (74.9%), itchiness (71.6%) and pain (70.3%). The most common category of TEM used was plants and plant products. Most TEMs (92.4%) were administered as topical eye drops. In ninety-five percent of cases, the provider of TEM was not a formal traditional healer but rather relatives, friends and the patients self-medicated. The use of TEM was associated with specific ocular complications in 58.6% of cases. There were significant associations between use of TEM and corneal ulceration, corneal vascularisation, endophthalmitis, evisceration, exenteration and legal blindness at presentation.

Conclusion: This study has shown that the use of TEM is common among new clinic-attendees at SKHEU and is associated with specific ocular complications.


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eISSN: 0008-9176