We ought to step up fight on eye disease

14Mar 2018
Editor
The Guardian
We ought to step up fight on eye disease

TANZANIA like many other countries around the world is a victim of glaucoma, the eye disease that is leading in causing blindness.

However, the true scale of the effects to the general public is still unknown due to the low level of awareness that currently exists. Sufficient information, education and communication strategies need to be designed so as to increase awareness and knowledge of the Tanzanian community about the disease in order to facilitate early diagnosis and treatment of individuals.

According to a report by the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC) Eye Department published on September 30, 2014 in the year 2012 alone 328,535 individual aged 40 and above were discovered to have glaucoma in Tanzania. This figure does not include congenital, juvenile and young glaucoma patients.

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases which result in damage to the optic nerve and vision loss. The most common type is open-angle glaucoma with less common types including closed-angle glaucoma and normal-tension glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma develops slowly over time and there is no pain. Side vision may begin to decrease followed by central vision resulting in blindness if not treated. Closed-angle glaucoma can present gradually or suddenly. The sudden presentation may involve severe eye pain, blurred vision, mid-dilated pupil, redness of the eye, and nausea. Vision loss from glaucoma, once it has occurred, is permanent.

Risk factors for glaucoma include increased pressure in the eye, a family history of the condition, migraines, high blood pressure, and obesity. The mechanism of open-angle glaucoma is believed to be slow exit of aqueous humor through the trabecular meshwork while in closed-angle glaucoma the iris blocks the trabecular meshwork. Diagnosis is by a dilated eye examination. Often the optic nerve shows an abnormal amount of cupping.

If treated early it is possible to slow or stop the progression of disease with medication, laser treatment, or surgery. The goal of the treatments is to decrease eye pressure. A number of different classes of glaucoma medication are available. Laser treatments may be effective in both open-angle and closed-angle glaucoma. A number of types of glaucoma surgeries may be used in people who do not respond sufficiently to other measures. Treatment of closed-angle glaucoma is a medical emergency.

About 6 to 67 million people have glaucoma globally. The disease affects about 2 million people in the United States. It occurs more commonly among older people. Closed-angle glaucoma is more common in women. Glaucoma has been called the "silent thief of sight" because the loss of vision usually occurs slowly over a long period of time. Worldwide, glaucoma is the second-leading cause of blindness after cataracts. The word "glaucoma" is from ancient Greek glaukos which means blue, green, or gray. In English, the word was used as early as 1587 but did not become commonly used until after 1850, when the development of the ophthalmoscope allowed people to see the optic nerve damage.

Top Stories