A Consultant Optometrist, Dr. Veronica Akuete, has warned that the cases of glaucoma patients are on the increase in the country.

Akuete, Medical Director, Forst Eye Clinic, Lagos, told newsmen on Friday that studies have shown that about 17 per cent of Nigerians have the disease.

“There were likely to be more cases, because of low awareness about the disease that causes irreversible blindness.

“Studies have shown that we have 16.7 per cent prevalence of glaucoma in Nigeria, but I can tell you that it can even be more.

“Awareness is very low. We really need to focus on glaucoma because it is becoming an epidemic,” she said.

On the 2018 World Glaucoma Week, Akuete said that glaucoma is a ‘silent blinder,’ a disease that causes blindness without prior warning to the patient.

The theme for this year’s glaucoma week is “Green – Go get your eyes tested for Glaucoma: Save Your Sight!”

According to the optometrist, glaucoma is a group of disorders characterised by progressive neuropathy that results in a characteristic appearance of the optic disc.

With a specific pattern of irreversible visual field defects associated frequently but not invariably with raised intraocular pressure.

She explained that the normal eye pressure is between 10 to 21mm mercury but any pressure above 24mm is high.

The doctor, however, said that a high intraocular pressure doesn’t mean an individual has glaucoma but makes that person a suspect.

She advised people to go for glaucoma screening; particularly those with family history of blindness or glaucoma, diabetes, hypertension and those over 40 years.

She said it would help them know what she referred to as their ‘G-Status.’

“I always tell people, ‘please if one person has been blind in your family make sure you go for an eye test to screen for glaucoma.

“In my clinic, we ask for a patient’s G-Status. We say, ‘are you sure it’s okay?,” she said.

Akuete reiterated that blindness caused by glaucoma was irreversible.

She also urged people to maintain a healthy lifestyle, eat lot of fruits and vegetables, particularly those rich in beta carotene.

Akuete called on Health Management Organisations (HMOs) and governments to help make screening and treatment for glaucoma accessible to more people.

“Glaucoma treatment is a chronic treatment. You know the general population of Nigeria has mainly, the middle class and lower middle class. Money is an issue.

“We deal with many health insurance patients, so tests are more affordable. Some HMOs pay for screening and treatment. Not all of them.

“Most of our hospitals are not equipped for glaucoma screening.

“The government can partner with both private and public sector. They can decide to equip them with glaucoma screening equipment and subsidise it, so the masses can afford it.

“NGOs can also come up with glaucoma eye foundations and subsidy of treatment,” she said.

She announced that free glaucoma screening was free on March 15 and 16 at any eye clinic registered under the Nigeria Optometric Association and urged Nigerians to take advantage of the service.

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