An Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, Head, Glaucoma services and Acting Head of Department of Ophthalmology, College of Medicine/Lagos University Teaching Hospital Dr. Adeola Onakoya has called for increased awareness against Glaucoma, the second leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide and in Nigeria, saying that it was necessary to sustain awareness about glaucoma and to encourage all Nigerians above the age of 30 to undergo regular screening for the common cause of blindness. “It is a public health problem. Currently, 70 million people suffer from Glaucoma worldwide, with 10 million blind. It is anticipated that by 2020, sufferers would increase to 80 million and blindness from the disease will increase as well,”  She has noted in a statement. Warning that blindness from Glaucoma is 10 times higher in the developing world, with an aggressive clinical course in blacks, she noted that prevalence increases with age in 0.5-9 per cent of population over 40 years and increases to 15 per cent in population over 65 years. “With ageing, the population of sufferers will increase. Population studies in Nigeria revealed that 5.02-6.9 per cent (1.8million) of people over 40 years suffer from Glaucoma with almost 360,000(20 per cent) of them blind in both eyes.”  Onakoya has said that the disease is asymptomatic and progressive with sufferers unaware until at an advanced stage when there is irreversible visual loss. “Awareness is very poor with only 5 per cent of the Nigerian Glaucoma population being aware. Early detection and appropriate treatment of the disease seem to be the answer to the late presentation of sufferers and reduction of blindness from the disease. “Education on the natural history of the disease will also improve the compliance and adherence to treatment in the diagnosed patients. Creation of awareness on the disease process and enlightenment programmes, backed up with case detection (through screening) will go a long way in reducing blindness.” Further, she said special attention should also be given to First Degree Relatives (FDR) of Glaucoma patients because of the heritability nature of the disease with the hope that the news can spread through word-of-mouth through at-risk groups. “Every Nigerian is at risk of the disease but this is higher in the population over 30 years, so special attention must be paid to include every Nigerian above the age of 30 years as the disease tends to present a decade earlier in Africans. In recognition of the importance of this common cause of blindness, the World Glaucoma Association (WGA) and World Glaucoma Patient Association (WGPA) declared March 12th of every year as World Glaucoma Day (WGD) 10 years ago. Two years later, this was extended to a weeklong celebration (WGW). Mass Glaucoma screening and early treatments have been a cardinal aspect of the Rapid Response Initiative (RRI), one of President Mohammed Buhari’s nationwide quick-win thrusts in healthcare.

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