30,000 likely to go blind

An estimated 600,000 Ghanaians are said to be suffering from glaucoma, a debilitating eye disease which causes blindness.

Out of the number, 30,000 are likely to become blind if the disease is left untreated.

The Minister of Health, Mr Joseph Yieleh Chireh, made this known at the launch of this year’s World Glaucoma Awareness Week organised by the Glaucoma Association of Ghana (GAG), in collaboration with other stakeholders.

The World Glaucoma Day falls on March 12, each year and the theme for this year’s event is, “Glaucoma — Don’t lose sight of your family”.

Glaucoma is a condition in which the fluid pressure inside the eye becomes too high, causing damage to the optic nerve. If left untreated, vision around the edge of the eye becomes increasingly restricted, narrowing the field of vision. Eventually, total blindness can occur.

If detected early enough, the damaging effects of the disease can often be treated with various drugs. Laser or conventional surgery can often relieve pressure and prevent further sight loss.

Launching the week, Mr Chireh said the Ministry of Health had decided to provide GH¢10,000 every year to strengthen glaucoma awareness creation, adding that the fund would be increased when the ministry’s resources increased in the future.

He said 2011 had been set aside by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a year to focus on non-communicable diseases, with special emphasis on glaucoma.

In that direction, he said, the National Eye Care Programme of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) had come up with a policy direction and strategy for managing glaucoma in the country.

That would include awareness creation for people to know about the disease and report early, putting in place screening facilities to detect cases early and managing cases early and properly.

Mr Chireh said to support the glaucoma control programme and the management of other eye diseases in the country, the Ministry of Health had increased intake into the Ophthalmic Nursing Training School to produce more eye nurses.

“Additionally, more doctors were enrolled with the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2010 to be trained as ophthalmologists. The ministry has also placed an order for bask ophthalmic equipment to support the staff in their work to make screening for conditions such as glaucoma and other eye diseases possible in our district hospitals,” he stated.

The President of the Glaucoma Association of Ghana (GAG), Mr Harrison Kofi Abutiate indicated that too many people were going blind unnecessarily, pointing out that it behoved the association to do everything possible to prevent blindness and restore sight.

He said a global programme, dubbed “Vision 2020, the Right to Sight”, which was launched in 1999 was half way through, adding that the world had 10 years left to achieve the goal of eliminating avoidable blindness.

Mr Abutiate called on the government to waive duties on equipment and other products for eye care to enable more professionals to provide better eye care services for the public.

As part of the event, there will be a free eye screening at the El-Wak Stadium at 2.00 p.m. on Saturday, March 12, 2011.

Source: Daily Graphic/Ghana