Cataract is a major contributor to avoidable blindness in the world. It is the clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye characterized by reduced vision, increasing difficulty with vision at night and sensitivity to light and glare. The risk factors of cataract include increased age, smoking and excess exposure to sunlight. Though studies have focused on the causes and treatment of cataract, there is no data on optometrist knowledge, skill and practice on cataract in Kenya. The optometrists are the primary health care providers for cataract patients, they are well placed to assess, provide advice and refer cataract patients to the ophthalmologists.
Methods: a cross sectional design was used. Stratified random sampling was used to select sample. Fisher’s formula was used.
A total of 49 optometrists were interviewed over a period of four months, the male to female ratio was 2:1, mean age of 45.8(72%) years, age ranged from 25-39 years with mean duration of practice of one year and maximum of 10 years. One hundred percent optometrists had good knowledge and understanding of importance of slit lamp assessment in making cataract diagnosis. However, our results found that (83.6%) of optometrists used pen torch for assessment of lens changes in patients. On skills, optometrists were classified as having poor skills with thirty nine (79.6%) being unable to diagnose. 61.2% of optometrists did not screen patients aged 40 years and above who attended eye clinics for cataract. The most common challenges reported for not screening was long queues. The study further established that the optometrists had various reasons to refer patients to another hospital including 52.6% for availability of ophthalmologists and 39.5% of optometrists for availability of equipment.
The study established that despite the good level of knowledge among the optometrist on cataract, there exist gaps in skills in categorizing the type of cataract. Most optometrists do not screen patients aged 40 years and above for cataract. Hence there is need to sensitize optometrists on the significance of screening for cataract to prevent blindness due to cataract.