MNH raises alarm as glaucoma cases soar

09Mar 2020
Henry Mwangonde
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
MNH raises alarm as glaucoma cases soar

Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) administrators are raising alarm following a sharp increase in cases of glaucoma—an eye disease caused by excessive alcohol use and self-medication—at the top referral facility.

The MNHl has received more than 1,000 patients annually in the past few years who sought help as the disease was in its late stages, meaning that most people do not consult regularly for eye checkups.

Speaking in Dar es Salaam at a free eye screening exercise on Saturday to mark the World Glaucoma Day, MNH ophthalmologist Dr Catherine Makunda said that smoking and diabetes can also ignite glaucoma symptoms.

Dr Makunda said MNH receives 20 to 25 patients each week, a sign that the prevalence of the disease was increasing.

“Today we are conducting glaucoma screening as a way of commemorating the international day but the trend calls for regular eye screening camps. There are signs that the disease is increasing,” she stated.

The specialist asserted that another challenge was that glaucoma patients face discrimination, pushing many of them out of treatment at an early stage.

While the MNH consultant talked of stigma and patients opting to wear glasses rather than open up, other sources affirmed that costs have to do with the problem as such people fail to obtain resources from relatives owing to the drunkenness stigma, etc.

Glaucoma damages the optic nerve, the health of which is vital for good vision. This damage has to do with abnormally high pressure in the eye, said to be the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60.

Another eye specialist at MNH, Dr Judith Mwende called upon prospective and practicing drivers to conduct regular eye tests or before taking up driving.

Nashron Daniel, as representative of Salama Pharmaceuticals which facilitated the screening exercise, said the company distributed the drugs for free as part of commemorations for the international day.

Experts say that to eliminate glaucoma blindness there are several issues that need to be addressed. Glaucoma usually gives no warning until it is advanced, while the damage it causes to vision is ongoing and could become irreversible. Fortunately, for many patients treatment can halt the damage, implying that the earlier the diagnosis the better the chances of reversal.           

To raise awareness on glaucoma, a series of engaging worldwide activities involving patients, eye-care providers, health officials and the general public were organised globally for sight preservation.

The goal was to alert everyone to have regular eye (and optic nerve) checks in order to detect glaucoma as early as possible, the specialist added.