Health News Sun, 3 Mar 2013

About 600,000 Ghanaians infected with glaucoma

Mr Augustine Collins Ntim, member of Parliament for Offinso North, says it has been accepted globally and by the World Health Organisation that glaucoma is the number one cause for irreversible blindness.

Mr Ntim said Ghana was highly infected with the disease quoting Dr Oscar Debrah; Head of the Eye Care Unit of the Ghana Health Service as saying that about 600,000 Ghanaians have glaucoma and out of this 30,000 had gone blind.

Mr Ntim said this on the floor of Parliament when he presented a statement dubbed: ” Let us fight glaucoma.”

He said in Ghana, the prevalence rate of the disease among people above 40 years was 8.5 per cent and those above 30 years being 7.7 per cent.

Worldwide statistics reviews a horrendous trend of the disease, and experts say 6.5 million are currently suffering from glaucoma and of this number, 2.5 million of them being women.

It also estimated that 4.5 million people were blind as a result of glaucoma and that figure would rise to 11.2 million by 2020.

Though experts say vision lost from the disease cannot be restored, however if patients are diagnosed early, loss of vision can be prevented.

Patients already with some amount of vision loss; medication, laser or surgery can halt or slow-down any damage.

He said while cataract is a curable disease, glaucoma, however presents perhaps an even greater public health challenge than cataracts because the blindness it causes is irreversible.

Mr Ntim explained that glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that cause a progressive characteristic damage of the eye nerve called the optic nerve that is responsible for seeing.

He said unfortunately, most cases of glaucoma do not occur with readily noticeable symptoms that warn of the irreversible optic nerve damage being done.

Mr Ntim noted that warning signs such as unusual trouble adjusting to dark rooms, difficulty focusing on near or distant objects, squinting or blinking due to unusual sensitivity to light or glare, double vision, dry eyes with itching or burning and seeing spots, ghost-like images, sudden loss of vision in one eye, sudden hazy or blurred vision, flashes of light or black spots are some dangerous symptoms associated with the disease.

He explained that the best way to detect glaucoma is a regular eye examination by ophthalmologist with risk factors being age, elevated eye pressure, African ancestry, thin cornea, family history of glaucoma, nearsightedness, past injuries to the eye, steroid use, a history of severe anaemia or shock.

According to a recent study research at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Centre, individuals with diabetes and hypertension may also have an increased risked of developing open angle glaucoma.

Mr Ntim noted that problems like access route to health care, insufficient numbers of ophthalmologist and clinical staff, financial and economic insecurity and inadequacy and shortage of medical equipment pose serious threats to eye health delivery in Ghana.

Source: GNA