In view of the World Glaucoma Week, ophthalmologists have advised individuals with a family history of this ocular condition to go for screening because early detection prevents blindness.
These experts disclosed this in interview with BusinessDay. They said it is mandatory and important not only in Nigeria, but the world over to go for check up with an ophthalmologist yearly. Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide.
World Glaucoma Week is a global initiative aimed at raising awareness. It was first observed on 6th march 2008 and this year it will hold between the 10th and 16th of March, 2019.
“This awareness week alerts people about the need to consult their specialists well in time as there are few diseases that are difficult to treat. The role of screening cannot be over emphasized” said Temitope Tijani, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon, medical director Skipper Eye-Q Super specialty Hospital. “Everyone who has an identifiable risk factor and even people without should have their eyes screened from time to time.”
Tijani said, everyone over the age of forty should have an eye examination annually and this should be done earlier in the presence of risk factors.
“Earlier diagnosis and treatment will reduce visual disability, improve patient quality of life and decrease overall cost of treatment. Treatment is mainly tailored towards lowering of intraocular pressure through the use of medications, laser treatment and sometimes surgery,” she said.
According to the Nigerian National Blindness Survey done between 2005 -2007, glaucoma is the second most common cause of blindness affecting 16.7percent with a prevalence of 0.7 percent and the most common cause of irreversible blindness.
Tijani explained that the cause of glaucoma remains yet unknown but some risk factors have been identified such that presence of these factors increases the need for routine eye examination adding that risk factors include elevated intraocular pressure, increasing age, and African descent, family history of glaucoma, vasospasm, low blood pressure and high myopia.
“The projected figures are quite alarming and lay emphasis on the public health significance of this disease. Glaucoma causes irreversible nerve damage. It is usually a slow progressive disease especially the type common in people of African descent, Primary Open Angle Glaucoma, going on unnoticed by the patient,” she said.
However, global picture emerged with a systematic review and meta-analysis done by Yih-Chung Tham and colleagues and published in the American Academy of Ophthalmology journal 2014, ‘Global Prevalence of Glaucoma and Projections of Glaucoma burden through 2040’.
According to the review, in 2013, the number of people (aged 40–80 years) with glaucoma worldwide was estimated to be 64.3 million, increasing to 76.0 million in 2020 and 111.8 million in 2040.
The number of people living with glaucoma worldwide will increase to 111.8 million by 2040, disproportionately affecting people residing in Asia and Africa. These estimates are important in guiding the designs of glaucoma screening, treatment and related public health strategies.
She added that Glaucoma can be controlled, because the fact is whatever vision that is lost to it cannot be gotten back.
“I urge Nigerians to change their orientation about health seeking habits because your health is your wealth and your eye is the key to your body,” Tijani advised.