It has been 6 years since ophthalmologists in Ghana started performing a new one-touch glaucoma treatment under the introduction and supervision of the School of Medicine of the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS), a scientific awareness which has not only improved the quality of life of glaucoma patients, but also reduced the cases of glaucoma blindness in Ghana.

In Ghana, it is estimated that 700,000 people live with glaucoma and 60,000 of these patients have already gone permanently blind due to lack of awareness, poor access to eyedrops and surgical treatments, and the high cost of modern surgical interventions.

Sadly, these patients have had to depend – all their lives – on expensive eye drop therapies to manage glaucoma.

Fortunately, this eyedrops trend has seen some reversal over the past six years when the UHAS eye department started delivering an affordable, painless, ten-minute treatment to patients suffering from glaucoma.

The affordability has been assured under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) which has seen the vulnerable also having the chance to seek this intervention. The intervention is also covered by private health insurance providers.

The new one-touch glaucoma treatment, known as Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery (MIGS), involves the creation of a tiny channel by a surgeon to relieve the pressure in the eye.

This makes the use of pressure-reducing glaucoma eyedrops unnecessary. MIGS is safe, affordable, painless and fast. It takes about ten minutes to complete the procedure. Over the past six years, no blinding complication of MIGS has been recorded so far.

One of the patients who had undergone MIGS, Prof Col (Rtd) Edwin Afari, professor of public health at the University of Ghana, and former commander of the 37 Military Hospital, used glaucoma eye drops for 8 years before undergoing MIGS. He has had surgery in both eyes two years ago and since then, has never needed glaucoma eye drops anymore. According to Professor Afari, his MIGS was painless and was done in ten minutes, and he recommended MIGS for all glaucoma patients.

” Before I met Dr Osafo Kwaako, the head of ophthalmology department at UHAS, I was administering glaucoma eyedrops two or three times per day for over nine years. After MIGS in both eyes in 2017, I stopped using the eyedrops.” Mr Gideon Gleh of the customs division of the Ghana Revenue Authority said after losing thousands of cedis to the eyedrop treatment of glaucoma.

In 2016, Rev Joshua Tamakloe of the Assemblies of God Church was warned by eye doctors in London that, without surgery, he will go blind in a matter of days, considering the progression of his glaucoma condition.

Eye doctors in London carried out glaucoma surgery in one eye which he said was painful, expensive and lasted more than one hour.

“When I returned to Ghana,  I was introduced to Dr Osafo-Kwaako for surgery on my second eye. To my surprise, the surgery was relatively cheap, completed in 10- 15 minutes and there was no pain during and after the surgery.” Rev Tamakloe added.

Some eyecare workers and patients have doubts over the efficacy of this new eye surgical technique,  but according to Mr Stephen Nartey, a retired chartered accountant and development practitioner, “I haven’t had any adverse effects from MIGS since I underwent the procedure in both eyes two years ago, and I don’t need the glaucoma eyedrops anymore. I still go for reviews every one or two months and my eye pressures are normal.”

Twenty years ago, Dr Ransford Antwi,  Head of Department at Academic City College in Accra was diagnosed with glaucoma in South Africa.

As expected,  Dr Antwi was given everyday eyedrops to manage the glaucoma and he suffered the frustration of having to use eyedrops twice everyday. According to Dr Antwi, “some of the eyedrops required that I constantly had to put it in a refrigerator to maintain its potency. It was uncomfortable especially when I had to travel out of town to places without refrigeration facilities.”

But since the MIGS operations in both eyes two years ago, Dr Antwi has escaped the daily ordeal of using eyedrops – which means saving GHS150 every month.

Cpl Lawrence Kyeremeh of the Formed Police Unit (FPU) in Accra celebrates two years after MIGS in both eyes and recommended that glaucoma patients undergo MIGS as soon as possible.

“I would be blind by now if I had not done MIGS two years ago”, Mr Kyeremeh added.

“It is estimated that 1% to 5% of glaucoma patients may still require glaucoma eyedrops after MIGS. The need for glaucoma eyedrops after MIGS is more common in diabetics, and eyes with previous surgery or severe injury.” Dr Osafo Kwaako stated.

“At present, this affordable MIGS is available at the Ho Teaching Hospital,  Dr Rose Mompi Eye Hospital in Ve Kolenu, VR; Bemuah Royal Hospital (the American Heart and Lung Centre in East Legon, Accra); and the Agogo Presbyterian Hospital in Ashanti Region,” Dr Osafo  Kwaako added.

Speaking at the Glaucoma Update Conference of the Ophthalmological Society of Ghana held at the Korle bu Teaching Hospital in 2018, Dr Alfred Osafo-Kwaako was optimistic that by the year 2030, all eye hospitals across the country will offer this service.

Telephone numbers for MIGS bookings are 0559480853, 0206430755.

Dr Osafo Kwaako expressed special thanks to the Vice Chancellor of UHAS, Prof John Gyapong, the Pro Vice-chancellor, Prof Owusu Adjei, and the Dean of the School of Medicine, Prof Harry Tagbor for their support since the introduction of MIGS.

“We also appreciate the support and guidance of the Acting CEO of the Ho Teaching Hospital, Dr John Tampoure, as well as the ophthalmic nurses, optometrists and ophthalmologists who have participated in the delivery of MIGS to glaucoma patients in Ghana,” Dr Osafo Kwaako added.