An ophthalmologist, Nkiru Akaraiwe, has advised Nigerians to go for eye tests at least once in a year to make sure they do not have glaucoma.
The president of the the Ophthalmologist Association of Nigeria, Sebastine Nwosu said Mrs. Akaraiwe gave the advice in Enugu during the Enugu Glaucoma Symposium.
Mrs. Akaraiwe, who was the facilitator of the symposium, said glaucoma could only be checked if patients visit medical experts on time before their condition deteriorates.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that has no cure and leads to total blindness.
‘If the people have their eyes checked on time, it could be managed,’ Mrs. Akaraiwe said, pointing out that as a disease without cure, the treatment is for life.
Speaking at the forum through its president, the association offered to partner Nigeria’s Federal Government in creating public awareness of the disease throughout the country.
Mr. Nwosu said glaucoma is a deadly disease because it has no cure but could be managed to stem its spread.
He further explained that the disease attacks the nerves that do not regenerate, thereby causing blindness as it does not itch or causes redness of the eye, but erodes the eyes gradually until total blindness occurs.
He pointed out that the South-east has the most cases of glaucoma in Nigeria, pointing out that severe visual impairment of persons over 40 years in the region is 2% with glaucoma blindness standing at 1.2%, compared to 0.3% in other regions.
‘The Statistics shows that Igbos have about 8% of glaucoma, which indicates that out of a hundred people, one person has glaucoma,’ he said.
Glaucoma is a complicated disease in which damage to the optic nerve leads to progressive, irreversible vision loss. It is the second leading cause of blindness.
The Chairman of the forum, Rich Umeh, expressed the fear that Glaucoma, unlike other eye diseases like cataracts, attacks patients unaware and leaves no known symptoms until blindness occurs.
He explained that the association was forced by the alarming rate of the disease to organise the symposium where participants would brainstorm to proffer solution to the menace. He pointed out that if they did not do anything to check the disease, they would have failed as medical experts.
Mr. Umeh lamented that eye specialists are concentrated more in the urban areas rather than spreading to rural areas and urged doctors to take it as their duties to enter rural areas to save the rural dwellers from the disease.
The Director of Corporate Affairs of Pfizer, Margaret Olele, said the drugs company was, ‘committed to contributing positively to patient care in our communities with relevant stakeholders to reduce the burden of glaucoma.’
The Glaucoma Symposium was designed to update healthcare professionals on the latest advances in medical and surgical management of glaucoma. It highlights insights in glaucoma management, medicals, surgical techniques and the burden of glaucoma in sub-Saharan Africa and Nigeria.
The facilitator of the forum, Mrs. Akaraiwe, said the association should carry rapid education and awareness about glaucoma both at urban and rural areas as one of the preventive measures.
‘We will partner with government, churches, media and others to make sure that the awareness reached both urban and rural areas and also provide solutions to the problem.’