Minister for Health, Dr. Kenneth Darroux, says while the public health services are doing their part in combatting Glaucoma, the populace must also contribute towards the fight.
Darroux’s remarks come on the occasion of World Glaucoma Week which runs annually from March 8-14th. It is a joint initiative of the World Glaucoma Association (WGA) and the World Glaucoma Patients Association (WGPA).
“The Public Health services here in Dominica have been combating glaucoma over the past years and a number of programs and strategies are in place to ensure that we do our part. The government of the Commonwealth of Dominica recognizes the importance of preventing blindness hence our annual observance of World Glaucoma Week to increase public awareness, provision of services and treatment for glaucoma,” the minister said. “I therefore urge each and every one of us to play our part. People 35 and older, especially those with relatives who have glaucoma, should have regular eye examinations. Glaucoma patients must adhere to their treatment and follow-up appointments.”
According to WebMD.com, Glaucoma is a condition that causes damage to your eye’s optic nerve and gets worse over time. It’s often associated with a buildup of pressure inside the eye. Glaucoma tends to be inherited and may not show up until later in life. The increased pressure, called intraocular pressure, can damage the optic nerve, which transmits images to the brain. If damage to the optic nerve from high eye pressure continues, glaucoma will cause permanent loss of vision. Without treatment, glaucoma can cause total permanent blindness within a few years.
Darroux stated that in Dominica it is estimated that about 1,600 people are living with Glaucoma and approximately 10 per cent of them are clinically blind.
He noted that Glaucoma is second only to cataracts as the leading cause of blindness and is the leading cause of irreversible blindness here in Dominica. He adds that when one considers the common risk factors of family history of glaucoma, aging, ethnicity, elevated eye pressure and eye trauma, coupled with the fact that lowering the intraocular pressure still remains the one and only treatment one can very well appreciate why Glaucoma has been, and still continues to be a serious public health issue, not only here in Dominica, but throughout the entire world.
He also pointed to a study which was done to determine the prevalence and projection numbers of glaucoma cases in the age group 40-80 that revealed that there are about 64.3 million people worldwide, living with glaucoma, and this number is expected to increase to 111.8 million by the year 2040, disproportionately affecting people residing in Asia and Africa.
The health minister pointed to the following programs and strategies which the government is using to tackle glaucoma:
-The National Strategic Eye Plan provides for eye programs utilizing the strategies of early detection and the availability of affordable treatment.
-Eye services are integrated in Primary Health Care. It is available and accessible in the Seven Primary Health Districts, at the Princess Margaret Hospital, the Dominica Infirmary and in the Private Sector.
-It is the policy of the eye service to perform opportunistic screening for glaucoma for all patients seen at the eye clinics irrespective of their presenting complaints.
-Some of the glaucoma medications are available free of charge in all primary health districts and the others are available at cost price at the Princess Margaret Hospital.
-The government policy of free health care to children 18 and younger and people 60 years and older serves to make all corrective medical and surgical treatment resulting from glaucoma affordable.
-The government’s introduction of “Yes We Care” program ensures that our senior citizens, a high risk group for glaucoma, now have responsible caregivers who ensure that they keep their eye clinic appointments and of course comply to the treatment and management outlined.
Darroux also said that plans are underway to introduce additional forms of treatment like selective laser trabeculoplasty which will be especially useful to those non-compliant patients.
The theme for Glaucoma Week this year remains: Beat Invisible Glaucoma (BIG).