Nigerian Journal of Ophthalmology

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Beliefs and Attitude to Eye Disease and Blindness in Rural Anambra State, Nigeria

S.N.N. Nwosu


Objectives: To determine (a) the beliefs and knowledge of the eye diseases/blindness; (b) the actions taken to alleviate eye diseases/blindness; (c) the disposition towards optical aids and surgery among adults in rural Anambra State, Nigeria.

Materials and Methods: three villages in the onchocercal endemic area of Anambra States were randomly selected for ophthalmic surgery. The study instruments included using interviewer administered pre- tested structured questionnairie to obtain from all persons aged 20 and above, information on beliefs, knowledge and attitude to eye diseases/blindness, eyeglasses and eye surgery.

Results: The 954 persons interviewed thought eye diseases/blindness were caused by filariasis, germs, enemy poison, heredity, entering bad bush, evil spirit and swearing to false oath. Self-medication was common but ophthalmologist, chemists, general practitioners, opticians, nurses and herbalist wee also consulted. Unorthodox ocular preparations in common use were holy water, sugar solution, salt solution and herbs.

Most respondents (94.6%) would advise a relation with eye disease/blindness to go to hospital and kinsmen were likely to contribute to treat the blind (93.3%) and exclude him from tax and levies (58.7%). But recommending herbs, consulting herbalists and or seer and offering sacrifice to the gods were other options. While 830 (87.0%) persons would accept eyeglasses, only 570 (59.7%) would submit to eye surgery if necessary, 176 (18.4%) persons saw eye surgery as frightening and 82 (8.6%) viewed it as useless.

Conclusion: While the views and attitude of most respondents agree with modern scientific knowledge and approach to ophthalmic problems, a good proportion had negative attitude. The supportive role of kinsmen and close relation of the ophthalmic patients is conspicuous. These finding deserve serious consideration when planning eye health services for these and similar communities.

KEY WORDS: Beliefs; attitude; eye disease; blindness; Nigeria.

[Nig. J. Ophthalmology Vol.10(1): 16-20]
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