Bahrain to combat blinding disease
Manama, March 13, 2009
Bahrain has launched a nationwide campaign to combat a potentially blinding disease, Glaucoma.
The campaign, launched on Thursday to coincide with World Glaucoma Day, will be conducted on a permanent basis, compared to earlier short-term initiatives.
Glaucoma is a group of diseases of the optic nerve, which carries visual information from the eye to the brain, that leads to blindness.
"We know that the numbers of people who suffer from glaucoma are extremely high, but what we do not know is the exact number or the break-up of their nationalities and gender," said Salmaniya Medical Complex Ophthalmology Department head Dr Noora Al Kobaisi.
"Not only we intend to regularise glaucoma checks at health centres, we also want to take appropriate action after we detect irregularities."
She said the checks would initially concentrate on the high-risk groups such as diabetics, those who have crossed 40 and those with a certain skin tone as they have a higher risk of suffering from the condition.
"All these people will be asked certain questions according to a laid-out protocol when they visit their health centres and subjected to certain basic tests.
She said the most important aspect was to treat the condition early to avoid complications because of the risk involved.
"One may develop nerve damage at a relatively low pressure, while another may have high pressure for years and yet never develop damage."
"Untreated glaucoma leads to permanent damage of the optic nerve and visual field loss, which can progress to blindness."
Consultant ophthalmic surgeon Dr Taqi Khalaf said on an average doctors see between 60 and 70 such patients at the SMC every week. "This is despite having advanced detection facilities at several health centres and the SMC."
Dr Khalaf said more than 50pc of those suffering from the condition visited the hospital when it was too late to prevent damage to their eyesight.
"In many cases, the symptoms start appearing when it is too late. The only way out is regular check-ups when one is above 40."
Dr Khalaf said screening involved numbing the eyeball with drops, then touching it with the curved tip of a wand that measures pressure, much like a tyre gauge.
He said the risk increases if a person is above 45 and had a family history of glaucoma.
"Treatment may include eye drops, laser or microsurgery. Glaucoma cannot be prevented, but if diagnosed and treated early, it can be controlled." He said the loss of vision cannot be restored.-TradeArabia News Service