Written by Emmanuel Ogbeche

Glaucoma is responsible for 4.2% blind Nigerians- Expert

dir="ltr">With a 16.7 percent National prevalence of blindness in Nigeria, Glaucoma is responsible for 4.2 percent, the Chairman, Nigeria Medical Association Committee on Eye Health, Dr. Biyi Kufo has said.

Commemorating the International Glaucoma Week, Dr Kufo said in a statement made available to our correspondent that Glaucoma is a public health problem and it remains a leading cause of blindness worldwide.

He said, "in Nigeria, with a National prevalence of blindness of 16.7 percent , Glaucoma is responsible for 4.2 percent of that figure. In addition, management of the disease can be quite costly."

He said Glaucoma consists of a group of diseases with common characteristics which mainly affect the optic nerve, adding that the optic nerve is the nerve which connects the eye to the area of the brain responsible for the sensation of sight, he stressed that glaucoma if untreated, results in loss of optic nerve function, and irreversible blindness.

Dr. Kufo who is also a Fellow of the Medical College of Ophthalmology (FMCOPH),  National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria, further explained that, "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 (in black people as well as in the majority of people of other races) 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.

"When the Ophthalmologist examines patients with glaucoma, the signs of glaucoma can be seen. When there is doubt, that is, when the Ophthalmologist deems the person a suspect, there are a number of tests that can be done to establish the diagnosis," Dr Kufo explained.

The Expert say there are a number of factors which increases the possibility that a person may develop Glaucoma but a more serious factor is; a high intraocular pressure as it is more common, and often more aggressive in the black race, adding that "there is a greater chance of developing it if a person in your family has it."

Dr. Kufo said increasing in age,  is another factor as some diseases such as high blood pressure increases the possibility of developing Glaucoma.

        
However, the expert is worried that awareness of Glaucoma in Nigeria is poor, pointing that the disease often presents late, as early detection will require screening programs which can be very expensive.

He said Glaucoma can be treated, with the use of medicines as well as with surgery. However, blindness resulting from Glaucoma is not reversible.

Management of Glaucoma on a National level, he said, should involve screening programs designed to detect the disease early and institute treatment, hence, when treatment is begun early, useful vision can usually be maintained and blindness is often prevented.

Dr. Kufo advised that, "everyone from the age of 40 years (younger if there is a family history) should have their eyes checked by an Ophthalmologist once a year. In this way, people with the disease can be detected, and treatment, which will often prevent blindness as treatment may include surgery, which has been found to be more effective in the treatment of Glaucoma than medical management alone."

 

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