Visual impact of using traditional medicine on the injured eye in Africa

Acta Trop. 1998 Jun 30;70(2):185-92. doi: 10.1016/s0001-706x(98)00008-4.


A 1-year clinical study was performed on 257 consecutive patients with eye injury admitted in Muhimbili Medical Centre from January 1993 to January 1994. It describes the causes, presenting visual acuity and associated ocular complications, use of traditional eye medicine on the injured eye and lastly the visual outcome. Patients were classified into perforating and non-perforating injury patients. Stones, sticks and metallic objects were the major causes of ocular trauma. The main types of traditional medicines used were plant juices, milk mixed with black powder and pounded roots. The route of application was mainly instillation into the conjunctival sac. Traditional eye medicines were used by 49% of all patients. The main ocular complications presented keratitis, endophthalmitis and panophthalmitis were seen more in patients with a positive history of using traditional eye medicines than those with a negative history. Poor visual outcome was also seen more in patients who used traditional eye medicines than in those who did not use them. The use of traditional medicines on the injured eye is likely to be associated with a very poor visual outcome. It is thus, recommended that intensive health education be provided to create awareness in the community of the dangers of using traditional medicine on injured eyes. It is also recommended to integrate traditional healers into the modern health system in order to use their psychotherapeutically useful abilities and control their practices.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Africa
  • Aged
  • Blindness / etiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Endophthalmitis / etiology
  • Eye Injuries / therapy*
  • Eye Injuries, Penetrating / complications
  • Eye Injuries, Penetrating / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Keratitis / etiology
  • Male
  • Medicine, Traditional*
  • Middle Aged
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Visual Acuity*