Knowledge, attitude and practices on eye diseases among traditional healers in Kitui District
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Abstract Introduction: Before the introduction of modem medicine, each African community had a way of treating various health conditions including eye diseases. Most of these practices have since changed. There are however some prevailing practices in certain communities some of which have been associated with many side effects and delays in seeking appropriate health care. Study population: Traditional healers in Kitui District. Main objectives: To establish the prevailing eye practices among traditional healers in Kitui district and establish whether these healers are able to identify ocular emergencies and refer in good time. Type of study: cross-sectional survey Sampling technique: two stage cluster random sampling technique Results: A total of 87 healers were interviewed in 3 divisions of Kitui district. Seventy six (87.4%) of them said that they could treat at least some of the eye conditions presented to them. Use of plant juices put into the conjuctival sac was the most preferred treatment modality and was practiced by 62 (71.3%) healers for none specific red eyes, 46(52.9%) for cataracts, 48(55.2%) for ocular injuries and 21(24.1%) for allergic conjunctivitis. The most performed surgical procedures included rubbing the underside of the upper lid with a specific leaf for allergic conjunctivitis with papillary reaction as performed by 43 (42.9%) healers, piercing chalazia with a thorn or needle by 11(12.6%) healers and making small incisions and applying herbs for ocular swelling by 4(4.6%) healers. The most preferred treatment for chemical injury was breast milk from any breast feeding mother as practiced by 29(33.3%) healers. Some healers mix traditional medicine with exorcism and rituals especially for squint as practiced by 14(16%) healers and ocular tumors by 9(10.3%) healers. The conditions the healers said they would refer included ocular tumors as reported by 48(55.5%) healers, cataracts by 34(52.9%) healers, ocular injury by 30(34.5%) healers and squint by 21(24.1%) healers. The least understood conditions were leucocoria and ocular tumors. Conclusion: Most interviewed healers treat patients who present to them with eye diseases. Most of them are not able to recognize ocular emergencies to refer in good time.