World Glaucoma Week will be observed globally from March 8, 2020.
The observance is an initiative of the World Glaucoma Association and World Glaucoma Patient Association under the theme “B.I.G: Beat Invisible Glaucoma”
The week is to raise public awareness of the eye disease glaucoma, which is a leading cause of blindness in the world and the leading cause of irreversible blindness in Dominica.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases which damage the optic nerve of the eye which results in loss of vision starting with the side or peripheral vision. It is mostly asymptomatic that is persons are not aware that their vision is being lost until it is quite advanced. As a result, it is referred to as the “Silent Thief of Sight”.
However, most people with glaucoma do not become blind as loss of vision from it can be prevented.
What are the risk factors?
- Age: The risk increases with age
- Race: Blacks more than Whites
- They are 4-7 times more likely to develop glaucoma than Whites.
- They develop glaucoma at a younger age (35-40 years)
- They have a higher risk of becoming blind from glaucoma.
- Family history of glaucoma
- Elevated eye pressure (normal range 10mmHg – 22mmHg); However 50% of patients diagnosed with glaucoma have normal eye pressures
- Thin central corneal thickness (<0.5 MM)
- Trauma to the eye
- Steroid medications: Pills, injections, inhalers and eyedrops
- Myopia (near-sighted), Diabetes mellitus, Smoking
Glaucoma cannot be cured but it can be controlled.
Early detection and adherence to treatment are the best means to prevent or slow the progression of vision loss from glaucoma.
Normal visual field (peripheral or side vision) becomes constricted (tunnel vision) over 10 years because of poor Adherence.
Treatment aims to lower the eye pressure most times with eyedrops but glaucoma laser procedures and surgery are also available.
Adherence to treatment is the result of a balance between the patient understanding the potential risk of blindness due to glaucoma, their belief in the benefits of their medication on one hand and the burden of taking the medication on the other – mostly cost and side effects.
Patients do not benefit from medications they don’t take.
The Government of Dominica has implemented a policy whereby all glaucoma medications are provided free of charge to persons 18 and younger and 60 and older.
Eye clinics have resumed free of charge in all Primary health districts.
There are now three ophthalmologists in the public sector and a total of 5 eye specialist in Dominica who can screen for and treat glaucoma.
In addition, with the construction and equipping of the new Brenda Strafford Eye Centre at the Dominica China Friendship Hospital, most of the latest investigations and treatment modalities will be available for the management of glaucoma.
In Dominica, eye care for glaucoma is available, accessible and affordable.
Do your part: “Go get your eyes tested for glaucoma. Save your sight.”