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Screen for glaucoma: Ophthalmological Society urges

BY: Doreen Andoh
Dr Dzifa Bella Ofori Adjei (right), President of the Ophthalmology Society of Ghana, speaking at the press conference. Picture: EMMANUEL QUAYE
Dr Dzifa Bella Ofori Adjei (right), President of the Ophthalmology Society of Ghana, speaking at the press conference. Picture: EMMANUEL QUAYE

The Ophthalmological Society of Ghana has called on Ghanaians to screen for glaucoma, the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the country, at least once a year.

The society said the disease presented no warning signs and symptoms and the only way a person could reduce the vulnerability of getting irreversibly blind from the disease was through regular screening, particularly for people 30 years and above.

However, it said there had been some cases from ages three to 29 and therefore recommended that parents ensured periodic screening for children at one, three-and-a-half years, six years and just before SHS.

The President of the society, Dr Dziffa-Bella Ofori-Adjei, made the call in Accra yesterday when the society joined the Glaucoma Patients Association of Ghana and the Ministry of Health to launch the World Glaucoma Week.

She said thankfully juvenile screening had been taken care of under the Ghana Education Service’s glaucoma school screening programme.

The Day

World Glaucoma Week (WGW) is a global initiative of the World Glaucoma Association (WGA) instituted to raise awareness of glaucoma.

The goal is to alert everyone to have regular eye (and optic nerve) checks in order to detect glaucoma as early as possible.

The 2022 commemoration is on the theme: “The world is bright, save your sight.”

Dr Ofori-Adjei said the causes of the disease were not known, and curable; however, the disease could be treated or managed when diagnosed early to either prevent or delay any progression to blindness.

Glaucoma is an eye disorder that damages the optic nerve due to high build-up of fluid pressure in the eyes.

It has been nicknamed the “silent blinding disease” or the “sneak thief of sight” because there are usually no symptoms or pain associated with the onset of glaucoma and the loss of vision normally occurs gradually over a long period of time and is often identified when the disease is quite advanced.

Once glaucoma sets in, visual damage is mostly permanent or irreversible.

Highlighting the national burden, she said about 500,000 Ghanaians were living with the condition and out of the number 45,000 had already gone blind.

“As a silent disease, we are all at risk. This is the time for us all to work together as a team. We need to build stronger relationships with the media, civil society and ultimately with the government to improve our partnerships in the fight against blindness due to glaucoma.

Interventions

Dr Ofori-Adjei said although glaucoma was a treatable disease, it required the appropriate interventions across the management value chain to delay or prevent blindness.

She mentioned such interventions to include medical and surgical treatment.

She said thankfully, its surgery and screening had been captured under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

She called on ophthalmologists to discuss those options with their patients, especially those whose diagnosis was made much earlier.

“Medical treatment, though widely available in the country, is still outside the reach of many Ghanaians as only a few of the glaucoma medications are currently on the NHIS. I would like to use this opportunity to join my predecessors to ask for more glaucoma drugs to be included on the NHIS medicines list.

“In this case, there will be more effective drugs to help patients, many of whom are at the threshold of going blind. This will be one of the best gifts to people with the condition,” she said.

Plea

The President of the Glaucoma Patients Association of Ghana, Mr Harrison Abutiate, said the association continued to plead for the inclusion of more glaucoma medications into the NHIS medicines list.

As a pharmacist, he said the manufacture of eye medications locally must be encouraged to help make the country self-sufficient in eye medicines.

He said community pharmacists must also ensure the proper use of eye drops and inform patrons about the side effects of eye medications.

He called on all to desist from self-medication as the eye was a delicate organ that could easily be lost with the slightest mistake.

“Remember, glaucoma can only be treated when diagnosed on time. It cannot be cured as at now. The best way to discover it is through screening. Glaucoma is real. Blindness is real. Get a check-up today,” he said.

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