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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Official: Despite seriousness, 90% of people with glaucoma remain undiagnosed

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The Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) has stated that 90 per cent of people living with glaucoma are undiagnosed, despite its severity.

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness globally, accounting for eight per cent of all blindness affecting about 3.12 million people, according to the ministry.

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The ministry made this revelation on its X handle to raise awareness in commemoration of World Glaucoma Week.

Results from Nigeria National Blindness and Visual Impairment Survey published in 2015 stated that glaucoma affects about 4 per cent of adults within the age bracket of 40 and above.

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve and result in vision loss and blindness if left untreated.

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Glaucoma in Nigeria

The blindness and visual impairment survey further revealed that 1.1 to 1.4 million adults in Nigeria have glaucoma, most of whom are not aware.

One in every 20 Nigerians aged 40 years and above has glaucoma and one in five is blind, the study revealed. It added that approximately 17 per cent of blindness in Nigeria is due to glaucoma.

It also highlighted that glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, and there tends to be a lower reporting of glaucoma in Africa compared to other blinding conditions in global burden data.

The ministry also explained in its post that in its early stages, glaucoma patients may not notice any symptoms or even experience poor vision because it affects the peripheral vision first before the central vision.

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“Although there is no cure for glaucoma, early detection and treatment such as prescribed eye drops, laser treatment, or surgery can stop the damage and protect your vision,” it noted.

Government response

The ministry said through its National Eye Health Programme, the government has continued to prioritise comprehensive eye care services across the country including glaucoma care.

It highlighted recent developments such as the launch of the Nigeria Glaucoma Guidelines and Toolkit to guide clinical and programmatic management of the condition.

The guide contains steps towards the diagnosis of glaucoma, risk assessment for progression and management decisions, specific guidance for treatment, setting up patient support systems, and referral to key resources.

Another initiative listed is the National Eye Health Strategic Development Plan (2024-2028) which it noted focuses on universal eye care services towards universal health coverage for Nigeria.

The ministry said, “The strategy is to implement inclusive, integrated, people-centred eye services that meet the needs and aspirations of Nigerians, striking the balance between promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative services.”

Call to action

World Glaucoma Week is aimed at raising awareness about the importance of early detection and compliance with treatment and follow-up.

The ministry urges Nigerians aged over 40 years to get an eye exam today and thereafter, annually.

“Glaucoma is a silent thief of sight, do not let it steal your vision. Let us join hands and unite for a Glaucoma-free world,” it said.

It added that Nigeria with other member states at the United Nations General Assembly recently adopted the vision for everyone; accelerating action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) resolution.

“This is aimed at committing the international community to eye health for 1.1 billion people living with preventable sight loss by 2030,” it said.

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