Understanding the Benefits of Vision Therapy in Nigeria
Vision therapy is a form of eye care that aims to improve the function and coordination of the visual system through various exercises and activities. Vision therapy can help people with various vision problems, such as amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (crossed eyes), convergence insufficiency (difficulty focusing on near objects), and learning-related vision disorders. Vision therapy can also enhance visual skills such as eye movement control, eye tracking, eye teaming, focusing, and visual perception.
Vision therapy is not widely available or accessible in Nigeria, where there is a high prevalence of blindness and visual impairment among adults aged 40 years and above. According to the National Blindness and Visual Impairment Survey, the prevalence of blindness (<20/400 in the better eye) and severe visual impairment (<20/200–20/400; presenting vision) was 4.2% and 1.5%, respectively. The main causes of blindness and visual impairment were cataracts, glaucoma, and uncorrected refractive errors. The survey also found significant differences in the prevalence and causes of blindness and visual impairment across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria, with the highest prevalence in the North East and the lowest in the South West
Vision therapy can offer several benefits for people with vision problems in Nigeria, especially for children and young adults who are still in the critical period of visual development. Vision therapy can help prevent or treat amblyopia, which affects 0.8% of children aged 10–15 years in Nigeria². Amblyopia is a condition where one eye has reduced vision due to a lack of stimulation or coordination with the other eye. If left untreated, amblyopia can lead to permanent vision loss in the affected eye. Vision therapy can help stimulate and strengthen the weaker eye, as well as improve the alignment and cooperation of both eyes.
Vision therapy can also help improve the visual efficiency and comfort of people with convergence insufficiency, which affects 2.5% of adults aged 40 years and above in Nigeria Convergence insufficiency is a condition where the eyes have difficulty converging or turning inward to focus on near objects, such as books or computers. This can cause symptoms such as eye strain, headaches, blurred vision, double vision, and difficulty reading or concentrating. Vision therapy can help train the eyes to converge and focus more easily and accurately, as well as reduce the associated symptoms.
Vision therapy can also enhance the visual performance and learning abilities of people with learning-related vision disorders, which are estimated to affect 20% of school-aged children worldwide. Learning-related vision disorders are conditions where the visual system is not functioning optimally for reading and learning, such as poor eye tracking, eye teaming, focusing, or visual perception. These conditions can interfere with the acquisition and processing of visual information, and affect the academic performance and self-esteem of the students. Vision therapy can help improve the visual skills and strategies that are essential for reading and learning, such as eye movement control, eye coordination, visual memory, and visual-motor integration.
Vision therapy is not a substitute for regular eye care or glasses, but rather a complementary service that can help people with vision problems achieve their full visual potential. Vision therapy is usually conducted by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist who has specialized training and experience in this field. Vision therapy programs are customized to the individual needs and goals of each patient, and typically involve a series of in-office sessions and home exercises. The duration and frequency of vision therapy vary depending on the type and severity of the vision problem, as well as the patient's compliance and motivation.
Vision therapy is a relatively new and emerging field in
Nigeria, and there are only a few eye care centers that offer this service.
There is a need for more awareness and education about the benefits of vision therapy
among the general public, as well as health professionals and educators. There
is also a need for more research and evidence on the effectiveness and
cost-effectiveness of vision therapy in the Nigerian context, as well as the
development of standardized protocols and guidelines for the practice and
evaluation of vision therapy. Vision therapy has the potential to improve the
quality of life and well-being of many people with vision problems in Nigeria,
and deserves more attention and support from the stakeholders and policymakers.