Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Beware of Glaucoma

opinion

Sani Dogo is not likely to see anymore except by a miracle. The middle-age energetic primary school teacher who lives in Pasu, near Gwagwalada in the FCT suddenly lost his sight. According to his story, he was not having any problem with his eyes, until he noticed that he was gradually losing his vision.

At the time he went to the hospital for eye check-up, he was told that he had glaucoma. And because he had not been going for eye check-up, the problem had grown worse, leading to his loss of sight.

Glaucoma is a disease of the eye in which fluid pressure within the eye rises - if left untreated the patient may lose vision, and even become blind. The disease generally affects both eyes, although one may have more severe signs and symptoms than the other.

Dr Ayodeji Adu, Consultant Opthalmologist Rachel Eye Center, Abuja explains what glaucoma is. "Glaucoma is the disease of the optic nerve. The optic nerve is the nerve that links the eye to the brain. In some circumstances this nerve can be damaged."In most people this damage is due to an increased pressure inside the eye - a result of blockage of the circulation of aqueous, or its drainage. In other patients the damage may be caused by poor blood supply to the vital optic nerve fibres, a weakness in the structure of the nerve or a problem in the health of the nerve fibres themselves.

Loss of eyesight is the most common complication. The earlier a patient is diagnosed with glaucoma, the better his/her outlook.

Experts say chronic (primary open-angle) glaucoma is the most common type. It has no symptoms until eye sight is lost at a later stage.

Damage progresses very slowly and destroys vision gradually, starting with the side vision. One eye covers for the other, and the person remains unaware of any problem until a majority of nerve fibres have been damaged, and a large part of vision has been destroyed. This damage is irreversible.

It is progressive and usually relentless. Treatment cannot recover what has been lost. But it can arrest, or at least, slow down the damage process. That is why it is so important to detect the problem as early as possible, to be able to start treatment with as little damage to the vision as possible.

Dr Adu says glaucoma is commoner in black race than other races. Hence, if you have a family history i.e. if you have people in your family that has had their eyes damaged because of intraocular pressure, then you may be at risk of glaucoma.

He stated other causes of glaucoma. "If you are taking drugs (like steroids) that can raise intraocular pressure that will secondarily cause glaucoma. Those that have had eye injury in the past, maybe punched or stoned, can have damage in the eye which can cause glaucoma."

Although anyone can get glaucoma, some people have a higher risk, those with

• diabetes

• migraine

• short sightedness (myopia)

• long sightedness (hyperopia)

• eye injuries

• blood pressure

Dr Adu says there are no symptoms for glaucoma. "The patient does not feel anything; he or she just discovers that he cannot see. By the time they discover that they cannot see, they are nearly blind. The treatment therefore is prevention. Every citizen must have their eyes checked regularly, every three years for children and two years as an adult so we can pick it up very early. There is no cure for glaucoma," Adu says.

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