Glaucoma is a disease of the eye in which fluid pressure within the eye rises. This eye disease can lead to blindness if left untreated in a patient.
Statistics have shown that no fewer than 1.8 million Nigerians above 40 years suffer from glaucoma with almost 360,000 of them blind in both eyes.
Dr Adeola Onakoya, the Acting Head of the Department of Ophthalmology, College of Medicine/Lagos University Teaching Hospital (CMUL/LUTH), Idi-Araba said yesterday at a press briefing to mark the World Glaucoma Week, which runs from March 12 to March 16, 2017, that glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide and in Nigeria with a prevalence of 16.7 per cent, which is second only to cataract. The event was organized by Pfizer. Dr Onakoya, at the event also said that glaucoma is a public health problem and presently 70 million people suffer from it worldwide with 10 million blind. “It is the commonest cause of blindness worldwide and in Nigeria. Research has also shown that by 2020, sufferers would increase to 80 million and blindness from the disease would increase also.”
The ophthalmologist went ahead to explain that glaucoma is 10 times higher in the developing world and the clinical course of the disease in blacks follows an aggressive course. It is a common disease among Africans, which increases with age in 0.5 to nine per cent of population over 40 years and increases to 15 per cent in population over 65 years. With ageing, the population of sufferers will increases. 50 per cent of the disease is diagnosed in developed countries and 85 per cent are undiagnosed in developing countries. In developing countries, patients only seek medical attention at an advance stage of the disease when there is irreversible visual loss.”
Dr Onakoya stated that awareness of the disease in Nigeria is very low as only 5 per cent of Nigeria’s total population are aware of the disease. She went ahead to say that early detection and appropriate treatment is the only way to reduce late call for medical attention and blindness resulting from glaucoma. Also, educating the populace on the natural history of the disease will improve compliance and adherence to treatment in diagnosed patients, she said.
She recommended that close attention should be given to First Degree Relatives (FDR) of glaucoma patients because of the heritable nature of the disease.
Every Nigerian is at risk of glaucoma but the risk increases among those that are over 30 years, Dr Onakoya said.
She applauded President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration for the Rapid Response Initiative, a nationwide health care program which offers mass glaucoma screening and treatment.