By Chioma Obinna
On this year’s World Glaucoma Week, the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, has urged Nigerians from age 40 and above to go for regular eye screening at least once a year as part of strategies to nip glaucoma disease in the bud.
Making the call in a press statement issued weekend and signed by its Chairman, Committee on Eye Health, Dr Biyi Kufo expressed worry that the disease has become a public health concern.
According to him, cases of glaucoma is on the rise in Nigeria.
He said regular screening of the eyes by a qualified ophthalmologist once a year would help people with the disease access treatment early and prevent blindness.
He said surgery has been found to be more effective in the treatment of glaucoma than medical management alone.
Kufo added that glaucoma remains a leading cause of blindness worldwide and in Nigeria, with a national prevalence of blindness of 4.2 percent; glaucoma contributes 16.7 percent of that figure. Lamenting poor management of the disease Kufo said more awareness on glaucoma is needed.
“Glaucoma consists of a group of diseases that affect the optic nerve which connects the eye to the area of the brain responsible for the sensation of sight, and glaucoma if untreated, results in loss of optic nerve function, and irreversible blindness.
“Most often, when we talk about glaucoma, we are referring to its most common form, primary open-angle glaucoma, which is also sometimes called chronic open angle glaucoma.
It is referred to as open angle because in this condition, the angle between the transparent cornea in front of the eye and the iris, which is usually seen as dark brown inside the eye remains open.
“In most cases glaucoma does not present with any symptoms, until the late stages of the disease, meaning that people who have the disease often do not know until it is advanced and the vision is seriously affected. They usually then experience cloudiness which gradually worsens vision deteriorates,” he explained.
“When an ophthalmologist examines patients with glaucoma, the signs of glaucoma can be seen. When glaucoma is suspect, there are a number of tests that can be done to establish the diagnosis. There are a number of factors which increase the possibility that a person may develop glaucoma: A high intraocular pressure is the most serious factor among others.
It is more common, and often more aggressive in the black race; there is a greater chance of developing it if a person in your family has it; increasing age is also a factor.
Also, some diseases such as high blood pressure increase the possibility of developing it.