Dr Charles Omale, a consultant ophthalmologist, on Friday attributed blindness due to glaucoma in Nigeria to 15.7 per cent among individuals above 40 years.
Omale, who is also the Managing Director, Fortress Eye Hospital, Wuse Zone 1, Abuja, told our correspondent in Abuja that the figure was alarming.
According to him, the disease is not receiving adequate attention in the areas of awareness, diagnosis and treatment.
He said that the disease was more prevalent among blacks than Caucasians, adding that unavailability of medical facilities, poor literacy level and poverty in Africa made it more difficult to suppress the disease in the region.
Omale said that these factors meant that people with glaucoma could not get the required treatment or care that they deserved.
He said that most people do not even go to the hospital for proper check-up and treatment hence they continued to live with the disease without any knowledge of it.
“The prevalence rate of glaucoma in Nigeria currently can be put at 4.2 per cent but the proportion of blindness due to glaucoma is at about 15.7 per cent among those who are above age 40.
“Most people easily attribute any issue of eye disease to spiritual attacks and so they will be going blind and believing that whatever the problem should be handled in a spiritual way.
“These are some of the reasons why this disease will continue to ravage the continent. There are however recent medical advancements both in diagnosis and in managing glaucoma.
“Apart from the traditional clinical examination by the Ophthalmologists, there are advanced medical equipment that can help him or her make up his mind far more quickly than in the past.
“For example, there is a new machine we call Optical Coherent Stenography; it helps to analyse different layers of the retina and will tell you the particular layer that has been damaged by glaucoma.
“This equipment will also give you a graphical representation of that stage of disease you are dealing with.
“This has helped a lot in separating those who are suffering from nerve damage but do not have glaucoma and those who have a clear cut case of glaucoma.
“Laser is now a new form of treatment for the disease. It is used in form of the traditional surgical approach to create an opening that will promote the drainage of fluid in the eye.
“This form of treatment is fast gaining ground; prior to this type of treatment, the major treatment process used was either medical that is use of certain medications or surgical,” Omale said.
He said that the optical coherent stenography was also a very important monitoring tool because it could give a progression report on whether a patient was improving or regressing with the disease.
He noted however that even with advancement in technology which has eased the treatment of the disease, many individuals were still faced with the high cost of undergoing the test.
Omale said that this machine could only be found in some private medical centres as public hospitals were yet to have it in their facility.
He called on the Federal Government to make efforts towards improving quality and affordability of treatment for the disease, deploy adequate equipment for diagnosis.