By Sosthenes Mwita, 27th August 2010 @ 12:00, Total Comments: 0, Hits: 4520
TRACHOMA is not a new problem in Dodoma Region. It has been wreaking havoc here since time immemorial; no wonder medical experts say Dodoma beggars who move from one urban center to another looking for alms may have exported the problem to other regions.
Dodoma has exported both the beggars and the disease to places as far afield as Mara, Kigoma, Bukoba, Dar es Salaam, Tanga, Zanzibar and Pemba. Blind beggars, most of who hail from Dodoma have also been sighted in Mtwara, Arusha and Pemba. Invariably, blind beggars carry young children with them. Today, I discuss the position children whose parents are blind.
I also look at the predicament blind people, especially blind children face in society. There is also a brief look at the numerous causes of blindness.Nearly all beggars in Dodoma Region suffer from a non-fatal but highly repugnant eye ailment called trachoma trichiasis
- a chronic disorder that mainly affects the inside of the upper eyelid (tarsal conjuctiva) due to repeated infections by a causative agent called chlomydia trachmatis.
However, trachoma is a highly treatable disease that, invariably, affects only the
unclean. These agents are produced by tiny flies (musca sorbient) that are much smaller than the common housefly (musca domestica). The tiny flies breed the agents in a pit latrine, animal dung or human faeces. Children living near animal enclosures risk contracting the ailment. Total blindness ensues about twenty years later.
The tiny flies introduce the agents (chlomydia trachmatis) into human eyes when they settle on the eyelashes to feed on the watery discharge (tongotongo). Gray lumps (follicles)
or small swellings appear in the inner side of the eyelids after an incubation period of one month. A child (or adult) who experiences the uncomfortable itchy sensation is likely to rub the infected eye with the back of his hand. He may, unwittingly rub the other eye with the same hand transferring the trachoma causing agents and ending up with quite a conundrum. Affected eyes redden and develop an itchy sandy sensation with a continual watery discharge.
The irritation develops into an inflammation that disturbs blood vessels in the area. Later on the swellings disappear as the case advances into an ugly trachomas car. Both eyelids
contract with the insides getting rougher. Repeated infections worsen the eyelids' condition with the scars developing folds and the itching sensation worsening. After about 20 years the continual scratching of the eyeballs as a result of callous eyelids damages the cornea.
The cornea, which is the transparent protective covering of the eye, whose main task is to shield the iris and pupil from the elements, develops scars as well impairing vision and finally culminating in total blindness. This final stage develops after the victim has endured repeated infections. Nearly all blind trachoma victims come into total blindness between the
ages of 20 and 40 years. There is no evidence to show that trachoma, which is not fatal, blinds young children but the illness is to blame for plunging children into miserly, having to live with itchy, watering eyes.
Trachoma could be avoided by maintaining good personal hygiene. Washing your child’s face twice a day and improving environmental and sanitary conditions can save his
sight. Like the more serious cholera, trachoma ravages communities that live in overcrowded, unsanitary areas. Most infections occur during the dry season when the trachoma carriers, the tiny flies, find it difficult to find liquids to feed on. "The
flies can be pestering when they discover that your eyes are watery. They keep coming back when you swat them. Now let us look at other causes of blindness in children.
Some children are born with a visual impairment. A child who is blind has a high degree of
vision loss. Only about 18 per cent of blind children are totally blind - most can distinguish between light and dark. When a child is partially sighted, he has a less severe loss of vision. Partially sighted children can see more than blind children but less than good sighted children. In adults, blindness can cause difficulty with performing everyday tasks such
as cooking, dressing, reading and writing. When outside shopping or going for a walk, blindness can create problems. In Dodoma Region it is common to see sighted children, many of whom are hired, taking blind beggars from place to place asking for
Children with blind parents face monumental difficulties during childhood. Accidents and disease are often responsible for blindness while some people are born blind or partially sighted. Common causes include age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, retinal detachment, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and, of course, trachoma trichiasis. Having an eye test at least every two years can help to detect problems that may need treatment before any permanent damage has been done. It is important to wear protective eyewear in situations where accidental eye damage may occur, for example, when welding metal.
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