Knowledge and practice of eye-care among leprosy patients.
In one hundred and thirty leprosy patients attending the Schieffelin Leprosy Research and Training Center, Karigiri, Tamil Nadu, India, the knowledge, attitude and practice of eye-care were ascertained using a questionnaire developed by Mathews & Mangalam. 74.6% the patients surveyed were aware of the disease, 60% knew about the early signs of leprosy, 74.6% considered leprosy curable and 36.9% knew the duration of treatment with MDT. Less than half of the patients (40.8%) knew that blindness occurred in leprosy and was preventable. More males had this knowledge (46.5%) than females (22.6%) (P = 0.001). Knowledge on how to take care of the eyes (26.9%), that eyes become anaesthetic due to leprosy (27.7%), and that precautions should be taken if sensation is lost (27. 7%) was very poor. Knowledge on prevention of damage in eyes (57.7%) and the fact that rubbing eyes could cause damage (55.4%) was found in more than half the patients. More males (64.6%) had knowledge on the prevention of damage in eyes than females (35.5%) (P = 0.008). Only 25.4% of the patients tried some measures to prevent eye injury, 21.5% used home remedies and all had the help of family members in their eye-care. More males (26.3%) used home remedies than females (6.5%). The older age group had better knowledge on taking care of the eyes than those aged 40 and below (P = 0.026). Although more patients with existing complications knew to take care of their eyes than those who did not have complications, the knowledge and practice of eye-care in both these groups were poor. Knowledge of leprosy in illiterate patients was not different from those who had some formal schooling, but the practice of eye-care differed significantly (P = 0.02). Health education must be undertaken to increase the knowledge of eye-care among leprosy patients, especially among illiterate persons, women and younger patients.