A Consultant Ocular Oncologist, Dr Abia Nzelu, has advised Africans, especially Nigerians, to go for Glaucoma eye screening at least once in two years.
Mr Nzelu gave the advice during the ongoing free glaucoma eye screening organised by the Mass Medical Mission, MMM, on Thursday in Lagos.
It was in commemoration of the 2020 World Glaucoma Week, WGW, in Lagos.
She said the Mission was conducting free glaucoma eye screening for everyone, during which it would counsel and prescribe for the participants based on findings from their screenings.
Mr Nzelu, also the Executive Secretary of MMM, said that WGW, which usually fall on the second week in March, was dedicated to creating awareness on the “silent thief of vision”, glaucoma.
“This 2020 WGW falls between March 8 and March 14.
“The main objective of this week is to eliminate glaucoma blindness by motivating people to have regular eye check, including optic nerve examination,” she said.
Mr Nzelu said that adult black Africa who were above 35 years of age were at risk of having glaucoma in their lifetime.
According to her, though, glaucoma is irreversible, but early detection, treatment and follow-up medications were key in the management and control of it.
“The main risk factors for the development of glaucoma include: high intraocular (eye) pressure (though glaucoma can often develop with ‘normal’ intraocular pressure), increasing age, positive family history for glaucoma, ethnicity, short-sightedness and far-sightedness.
“Glaucoma can affect any age group including newborn babies, but is more common in older adults.
“The most common type of glaucoma also occurs earlier and is more severe in blacks than in whites.
“Other risk factors for glaucoma are: eye injury, certain types of eye operation, long-term use of steroid medication, general health problems like diabetes mellitus, migraine, high blood pressure, and heart disease, among others,” Mr Nzelu said.
She explained that most forms of glaucoma affect both eyes, and do not usually have symptoms in their early stages until the situation becomes worse.
Mr Nzelu said that was why Glaucomaics (Glaucoma patients) may often complain of frequent change of glasses, and if untreated, people with glaucoma will slowly lose their peripheral (side) vision.
According to her, but they will not notice any change in their vision until the damage becomes very severe.
She noted that treatment of glaucoma was a life-long therapy, advising glaucoma patients to always ensure strict adherence to their medications.
“Treatment and monitoring of glaucoma is life-long.
“This is particularly important given the fact that while glaucoma treatment may save the remaining vision, it does not improve sight already lost from the disease.
“As a result, patients that are not enlightened and motivated may tend to discontinue their treatment and end up going blind.
“Sadly, this is a very common situation in our society.
“Therefore, Glaucomaics need to take their medications exactly as prescribed by the ophthalmic surgeon (ophthalmologist),” she said.
One of the beneficiaries, Okufuwa Samad, expressed satisfaction and gratitude for the good gesture of free glaucoma screening by MMM.
According to Mr Samad, the mission should have included the treatment aspect, even with fees.
He said eye issue was very delicate, adding medications should not just be prescribed for one to buy outside.
“I am diabetic and noticed that my eyesight is blurry. So, when I read about this screening exercise online, I decided to come.
“Now, I have been screened with glaucoma and they advised me on how to go about it.
“But, it would have been better if the treatment aspect is included so that one will get every treatment here and may not need to go outside in search of medications,” Mr Samad said.
Another beneficiary also a journalist, Orji Samuel, called for more public awareness and enlightenment concerning the programme.
This, he said, would enable people to have the right information and participate accordingly.
Samuel said he was expecting to meet crowds of people and was surprised to see the place scanty.
According to him, there is need for massive public enlightenment before embarking on such programme to enable the targeted recipients to know and benefit from it.