Glaucoma leading cause of Blindness
When the 6th World Glaucoma Week was launched in March the president of the Glaucoma Association of Ghana (GAG), Mr Harrison Abutiate, presented some alarming figures. TODAY around 700,000 Ghanaians are living with glaucoma, which is the most common contributor to Ghana’s blindness burden- around 60,000 of people affected are already blind. These statistics make Ghana one of the leading countries with glaucoma cases worldwide
Glaucoma is a disease of the eye and there are many types, however the most common type in Ghana is the most severe form of the disease, called open-angle glaucoma. This type of glaucoma is mainly characterised by damage to the optic nerve and poor blood supply to the nerve, which lead to visual loss and eventually irreversible blindness. Open-angle glaucoma usually presents with no symptoms and therefore often goes undetected until it’s too late, which highlights the importance of attending regular eye screening checks- at least once a year.
Consequently the chosen theme for this year’s World Glaucoma week “Beat invisible glaucoma” reflected the importance of prevention and early detection. The Health Minister, Mrs Sherry Ayittey, rightly pointed out that prevention is not only better than cure but is also much cheaper!
Even though it has been shown that the prevalence of glaucoma increases with age, glaucoma is not a disease reserved for old eyes- glaucoma does not discriminate! A study in a hospital in the northern region found that 21.48% of patients with chronic glaucoma were between 10 and 39 years old. These results are not conclusive and further research will need to be carried out to determine the age group screening should begin, especially for individuals with a family history of glaucoma.
According to Mr Abutiate there are around 250,000 people currently affected who are unaware of their condition, he therefore stressed the importance of intensifying glaucoma awareness and added,
“By so doing, the people will be well informed about the causes, preventable measures, its severity and effects which will make them conscious in making strides to find their status and seek appropriate health care required“. This statement really stands out, as it is all about promoting the fact that everyone is entitled to making an informed decision about his or her health.
And Mrs Ayittey, Minister of Health, added
“I want the education to go down to the people of the country, so this rogramme must be held in the marketplaces and the lorry stations where the public can be informed about the disease and not in this small room”.
Mr Abuitate also discussed some initiatives that could be taken to improve the situation in Ghana, which included increasing the number of glaucoma drugs available through the national health insurance scheme, abolition of duties on glaucoma drugs to maximise patient compliance and train more ophthalmologists.
Check out this really cool glaucoma awareness video: The Yvonne Nelson Glaucoma Charity Single feat. Sarkodie, Trigmatic, Iren Logan, Ayegbe Edem, Sherifa, Fresh Prince, Oga-B and many more.
Nora Mistersky (@Ms_Nora_M)