Original Research

Utilization of eye care services by elderly persons in the northern Ethekwini district of Kwa-Zulu-Natal province, South Africa

K. P. Mashige, C. Martin
African Vision and Eye Health | South African Optometrist: Vol 70, No 4 | a113 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/aveh.v70i4.113 | © 2011 K. P. Mashige, C. Martin | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 December 2011 | Published: 11 December 2011

About the author(s)

K. P. Mashige, Discipline of Optometry, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
C. Martin, African Vision Research Institute, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

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Although most of the causes of visual impairment and blindness in the developing world are treatable, many people do not receive eye care attention. The appropriate use of eye care services is a key factor to reducing visual impairment and blindness in any community. However, eye care services are not always provided, accessible or utilized and do not always meet the needs of specific groups; one such group is older adults. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the use of eye care services in adults aged 60 years and older living in the eThekwini district of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Information regarding the use of eye care services was collected from 1008 participants through a questionnaire interview using items derived from the World Health Organization multi-country World Health Survey administered by trained field workers. The participants included 77.3% females and 22.7% males. Their mean age was 68.9 ± 7.4 years (range = 60 to 103 years). Less than half (38.7%) of the participants thought that they should have their eyes tested every year. Although many (57.4%) knew where to go to get treatment for eye problems or to have their eyes tested, a significant proportion (42.5%) did not know. Almost a third (32.8%) felt that they need to get treatment for an eye problem or to have their eyes tested. Less than one third(25.2%) indicated that they last visited a health facility for an eye test 2-5 years ago. Above one third (38.3%) reported that they were told they could not see at distance, 22% reported that theywere told that they had reduced capacity to see at near, while 23.4% and 9.2% respectively were told they had had eye infections or cataracts. Of these, 59.7% stated that new glasses were recom-mended to them as treatment, 22.7% were recommended eye drops and 7.8% had cataract surgery recommended. Most (80.5%) reported that they received the recommended treatment while 19.5% reported that they did not. Of those who reported not receiving the treatment, 36.4% stated that it was due to inability to afford the treatment recommended while 29.1% stated that they were unable to get the treatment due to long waiting times.The majority of participants (86.9%) agreed that the treatment they received solved their eye problems. Knowledge about regular eye examinations and available eye care services was poor amongparticipants in this study. This suggests the need for awareness campaigns and early intervention programmes. Furthermore, cost of services had a significant influence on the affordability of eye care services among participants. (S Afr Optom 2011




Eye services; access to eye services; affordability of eye services; ageing; eye examination.


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