Night Blindness

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Night Blindness decreased ability to see at night or in dim light. The medical term is nyctalopia. Night blindness is a disease of eye caused by vitamin 'A' deficiency. The eye looses its capacity to adapt to darkness and as a consequence afflicted individuals suffer from loss of vision in the darkness of the night. The deficiency also causes excessive dryness of the eye because of malfunction of secretary glands of the eye. Night blindness is usually an early symptom of vitamin 'A' deficiency. If not corrected it can lead to total blindness and it is a major cause of premature blindness in children in developing countries. Incidence of night blindness in Bangladesh is very high. Conservative estimates based on limited surveys carried out by the government indicate that about quarter of a million cases are seen every year in the country. Each day about 88 children become blind in Bangladesh due to vitamin 'A' deficiency. Vitamin 'A' associated night blindness in children of 1-6 years of age is about 2 percent.

High levels of poverty in the villages of Bangladesh make rural children highly vulnerable to vitamin 'A' deficiency. This can be partly ameliorated by nutritional intervention by way of awareness creation on the value of breast feeding and the benefit of eating easy to grow green leafy vegetables and seasonal fruits, a rich source of vitamin 'A'. Homesteads in rural areas can serve well in producing green vegetables for the family with little cost and effort in our country since the weather is congenial for cultivation of some vegetables and fruits throughout the year. Administration of 'A' capsule to children under 5 years of age as part of the extended programme of immunisation (EPI) has produced good results although coverage achieved in different parts of the country is still far from satisfactory, ranging from 16% to 85%. [Zia Uddin Ahmed]