The Ghana Optometric Association (GOA) has called on the Ministry of Education to make eye tests a compulsory requirement for admission into pre-school and mainstream schooling for children to help in the early detection of any defects.
According to the GOA, the current compulsory eye test for tertiary and secondary school entrants defeated the aim of early eye defect detection as the harm might have already been done to the eye at that advanced age.
Dr. Alfred Gardemor, GOA Public Relations Officer gave the recommendation at the fifth Ghana News Agency-Tema Regional Office and the Ghana Optometric Association fortnightly public sensitization initiative “GNA-GOA: My Eye! My Vision!
The fortnight initiative is a collaborative public education advocacy campaign to promote the need for people to access eye care and also to draw attention to vision health.
The GNA-GOA: My Eyes! My Vision! The initiative also seeks to challenge the public and policymakers to focus on vision as a health issue, which forms a critical component of mankind’s wellbeing but is often neglected.
Dr. Gardemor was speaking on the topic; “Children’s Vision and Eye Health,” and explained that since learning is done mainly through the eyes, screening children early in life and periodically from the age of six months would help to detect any defect and start the treatment and correction.
He said some children suffering from some learning disabilities and being tagged as unintelligent could be a result of some eye disorders making them not to see what teachers put on the board or read things in their books.
He indicated that many children with eye disorders were yet to be identified and treated, and therefore advised parents to get a first eye screening for their children from age six months, with a second one at age one, three, and before pre-school starts.
Dr. Gardemor who is a Principal Optometrist and Head of the Optometric Center at the Nsawam Government Hospital mentioned some of the eye conditions that could be detected early as amblyopia also known as lazy eye, allergies, refractive errors, and glaucoma among others.
He said for instance early detection of amblyopia was important and key for the success of treatment as it has been proven that it was always best to start its treatment before the age of seven adding that a lot of things would have already been established and therefore would be difficult to retrain the eyes from its laziness.
He also said spectacles and other treatments could start early for children with refractive errors to put them in a better position to learn, adding that allergies which were one of the many eye conditions that affected children could also be handled better when noticed early.
Dr. Gardemor said parents could be helped to identify the triggers of the allergy eye conditions while eye drops would be prescribed to help correct it whenever they got exposed to them.
Some of the allergy triggers he said were bathing and laundry soap, perfume, food, dust, pollens, and body creams among others.
Dr. Kwame Oben-Nyarko an optometrist called on the public to join the campaign to fight against avoidable blindness and visual impairment and commended the Ghana News Agency Tema Regional Office for the GNA-GOA: My Eyes! My Vision! initiative.
Dr. Oben-Nyarko who is the Chief Executive Officer of Third Eye Care and Vision Center explained that there are three main types of refractive errors namely myopia (shortsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism.
He said there were other complex forms of refractive errors and these could come in the form of myopia being combined with astigmatism or hyperopia being combined with astigmatism.
“All of these forms of refractive errors are characterized by blurriness of vision at either far (long) distances or near (short) distances. Refractive errors could lead to pain in the eyes as well as severe headaches that do not resolve with pain killers.
“Some patients of refractive errors also tend to strain or squint the eyes and could also complain of seeing shadows around objects that they are looking at. This condition is simply managed by the use of spectacle or contact lenses or laser surgery,” he said.
Dr. Oben-Nyarko emphasized that it was not too early to wear glasses as failing to do so could lead to permanent visual impairment.