By Chinedu Adonu
A HIGH number of persons in the South East zone of the country are fast becoming blind as a result of glaucoma. Series of surveys carried 10 years ago and recent ones show that the South East has the highest rate of glaucoma in the country with at least 10 per cent of the population affected.
Raising the alarm about the development, a body of eye specialistsknown as the South East Ophthalmologists Forum, SEOF, said urgent steps need to be taken to arrest the situation.
Speaking last week during the Pfizer-South East Forum Glaucoma Symposium held in Enugu, Enugu State, the Chairman of the Forum, Professor Rich Umeh, said glaucoma, unlike other eye diseases, attacks silently and leaves no known symptoms until blindness occurs.
Umeh said the alarming rate of the disease compelled the Forum to organise the symposium to brainstorm and proffer solutions to the menace.
She regretted that eye specialists are concentrated more in the urban areas rather than spreading to rural areas and urged doctors to take the challenge as a duty to save rural dwellers from the disease.
In his contribution, the President of the Ophthalmologists Association of Nigeria, OAN, and Coordinator of the Forum, Professor Sebastine Nwosu, explained that glaucoma attacks the nerves that do not regenerate, thereby causing blindness as it does not itch or cause redness of the eye but erodes the eye gradually until total blindness occurs.
Nwosu lamented that glaucoma is deadly because it has no cure but could only be managed through surgery and medication to stem its spread.
Reacting to the statistics of their findings, Nwosu said that the South- East is the commonest among all the region that has glaucoma, pointing out that severe visual impairments of person over 40 years in the South East is 2 per cent, glaucoma blindness is 1.2 per cent compared to 0.3 per cent of other region. The Statistics shows that the Igbos have about 8 per cent of glaucoma which indicates that out of 100 people, one person has glaucoma.
Facilitator of the Forum, Dr. Nkeiru Akaraiwe, said that glaucoma could only be checked if patients visits experts in time before their condition deteriorate.
She urged every body to go for test at least ones in a year to make sure they do not have glaucoma. “If the people have their eyes checked in time, it could be managed. The genetic nature of glaucoma makes it prevalent in the South East,” Akaraiwe noted.
In the view of the Director of Corporate Affairs, Pfizer NEAR, Margaret Olele, “Pfizer is committed to contributing positively to patient care in our communities with relevant stakeholders to reduce the burden of Glaucoma.
She said the Glaucoma symposium was designed to update health care professionals on the latest advances in medical and surgical management of glaucoma.
“It highlights insights in Glaucoma management, medicals, surgical techniques and the burden of Glaucoma in Sub- Saharan Africa and Nigeria,” she noted.