In a bid to address raging concerns on the rising incidence of blindness caused by glaucoma in Nigeria and many other African countries, experts at the Apollo Hospitals have advocated increased awareness and effective medical management to stem the disease.
With data from population-based surveys (PBS) indicating that glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness, accounting for eight per cent of blindness among about 50 million people who are blind world-wide, the need to rally the international community in creating awareness about the disease remains important.
In commemoration of the month long campaign to raise awareness on glaucoma, Apollo Hospitals explained that it is uniting with the international community to bring to attention the causes and effects of the disease while urging the public to take action before the fatal disease takes full effect.
Indeed, Apollo noted that the nature of the disease has resulted in it being referred to as “the sneak thief of sight”, this fatal disease comes with no symptoms, slow to takeover and once vision is lost, it becomes permanent.
Already, Nigeria has identified a number of problems in the detection and treatment of primary open angle glaucoma in the country, a trend which is believed to be common to all countries and sometimes largely restricted to less developed countries.
A Consultant Ophthalmologist and Glaucoma Specialist at Apollo Hospitals, Dr Binita Thakore, claims that, Glaucoma is the second leading of cause of irreversible blindness, around the world over 4.5 in every 100 people have this type of disease. She explained that glaucoma is not the name of an eye disease by itself; it refers to a group of eye diseases that gradually steal your sight without warning and often without symptoms.
According to her, vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve, adding that such nerve acts like an electric cable with over a million wires and is responsible for carrying the images we see to the brain. High eye pressure is the main cause of optic nerve damage.
Furthermore, she noted that glaucoma is caused by a clear liquid called the aqueous humour that flows in and out of the eye. The liquid is not part of the tears on the outer surface of the eye.
Dr Thakore added, “You can think of the flow of aqueous as a sink with the tap turned on all time. If the drainpipe gets blocked, water collects in the sink and pressure within the inner eye increases, which can damage the optic nerve. Once the optic nerve gets damaged, a person loses vision that can never be regained. If the treatment of glaucoma is imperfect, a person can continue to lose vision”.
Speaking on the effects of glaucoma, the Founder and Chairman of Apollo Hospitals Dr. Prathap C. Reddy stated that “glaucoma can steal vision so quietly that the patient can be unaware of the dangers until the optic nerve is badly damaged.
Because no symptoms occur, the best way is to diagnose this disease through periodic medical eye examinations. In most situations, glaucoma cannot be cured. Treatment is given to preserve the existing vision.” He added: “a complete glaucoma examination is necessary before any treatment plan is made”.
The Apollo Chairman however called for regular eye examination that should not be ignored, adding that unlike many ailments which can creep up on a person the effects of glaucoma once it has fully taken over is reversible. Apollo Hospitals is presently in collaboration with Diamond Helix Hospitals in Lagos.