UAE 'must create more awareness on glaucoma'
Dubai, March 20, 2014
The health authorities in the UAE must create greater awareness on the risk of Glaucoma, the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, said a leading eye expert.
They must highlight the need for regular screening for older citizens and residents in the UAE to prevent Glaucoma blindness, remarked Dr Mohammed Sohaib Mustafa, the consultant Glaucoma surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai.
He was speaking on the sidelines of a Glaucoma symposium in Dubai, where he presented the latest advances in Glaucoma surgery. The symposium was held to mark the conclusion of World Glaucoma Awareness Week 2014 (March 9-15) held under the theme of BIG – Beat Invisible Glaucoma.
The World Health Authority estimates that Glaucoma affects around 60 million people globally, he stated.
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide and the number one cause of irreversible blindness. However, the disease is treatable and blindness can be prevented through early diagnosis, said Dr Mustafa.
Although children and young adults can be affected by Glaucoma, high risk groups include middle aged and older people (with an increasing risk from 40 years of age up), uncontrolled diabetics and those with a family history of glaucoma.
According to the World Health Organization, the number of people estimated to be blind as a result of primary glaucoma is 4.5 million, accounting for slightly more than 12 per cent of all global blindness. The primary risk factors that are linked to the individual and the onset of the disease are age and genetic predisposition.
The incidence of some types of Glaucoma rises with age and its progression is more frequent in people of African origin.
"Glaucoma is called "the sneak thief of sight" because there are no symptoms and once vision is lost, it is permanent. As much as 40 per cent of the field of vision can be lost without a person noticing," explained Dr Mustafa.
“Unfortunately, many people with glaucoma are unaware that they have it until there is a large amount of irreversible vision loss,” he stated.
“Glaucoma has no symptoms in its early stages and up to 40 per cent loss of sight can occur before any problem is noticed by the sufferer. This is why we are advising the community in the UAE – and especially those over the age of 40 - to undertake regular screening every year. It really could save your eyesight. We have a relatively young population in the UAE but with a high incidence of diabetes and so, as the population ages, there is the risk of an increase of Glaucoma,” he added.
According to him, Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that cause progressive damage of the optic nerve. If left untreated, most types of glaucoma result (without any warning or obvious symptoms to the patient) in increasing visual damage and may lead to blindness. Once this has happened, the visual damage is permanent, which is why glaucoma is described as the "silent blinding disease" or the "sneak thief of sight".
Dr Mustafa said there was no simple cure for glaucoma yet, however it can definitely be treated and blindness can be prevented through early diagnosis and acceptance of treatment.
"Treatment with eye drops or surgery (conventional or laser) can halt or slow-down the disease and prevent further vision loss," he stated.
The expert pointed out that early detection was essential to limiting visual impairment and preventing the progression towards severe visual handicap or blindness. An eye-care professional can detect glaucoma in its early stages.
"Screening for Glaucoma involves a mandatory eye pressure check, evaluation of the health of the optic nerve at the back of the eye by a specialist doctor and visual fields test if any changes are seen at the previous exams," he stated.
"All tests are pain free and easy to assess the disease when performed in proper ophthalmic hospitals or clinics. They should be done every 12 months as screening and can be accompanied by an optic nerve photo if needed," he added.-TradeArabia News Service