President Paula-Mae Weekes is championing World Glaucoma Week to raise awareness of the preventable disease as 45 members of her staff were tested yesterday.
World Glaucoma Week is commemorated in March and is a joint initiative between the World Glaucoma Association and the World Glaucoma Patient Association.
It has been running for the past 10 years and encourages those with the knowledge of the condition to use different mediums to disseminate that knowledge to the public. This year, it is celebrated on March 10 to 16.
Speaking to reporters at the Cottage by the Office of the President yesterday, as the tests were being conducted, president Weekes encouraged other institutions and Government agencies to encourage their staff to be tested for Glaucoma.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in T&T. The condition causes damage to the optic nerve of the eye and gradually worsens with time. It is often attributed to a buildup of pressure inside the eye. This increased pressure called intraocular pressure can damage the optic nerve, which transmits images to the brain.
The disease can be hereditary and may not show up until later in life. If left untreated, it can lead to vision loss and with extended neglect would result in permanent vision loss within a few years.
Types of Glaucoma
According to preventblindness.org, there are four types of Glaucoma.
This is the most common form of the condition. In open-angle glaucoma, aqueous fluid drains too slowly and pressure inside the eye builds up. It usually results from ageing of the drainage channel, which doesn’t work as well over time. However, younger people can also get this type of glaucoma.
This is a form of open-angle glaucoma not related to high pressure. People with normal tension glaucoma may be unusually sensitive to normal levels of pressure. Reduced blood supply to the optic nerve may also play a role in normal tension glaucoma.
Those of Asian and Native American descent are at higher risk for this form of glaucoma. It occurs when the drainage system of the eye becomes blocked. It causes a sudden rise in pressure, requiring immediate, emergency medical care. The signs are usually serious and may include blurred vision, severe headaches, eye pain, nausea, vomiting or seeing rainbow-like halos around lights. Occasionally, the condition may be without symptoms; similar to open angle.
Secondary glaucoma is the result of another eye condition or disease, such as inflammation, trauma, or tumour. Learn more about uveitis, an inflammation that can cause secondary glaucoma.
Early detection of the condition is a pivotal factor in protecting one’s sight according to ophthalmologist and lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Dr Desiree Murray. President Weekes added that it is a quick and painless test.
How to get tested in T&T?
According to Dr Murray, screening for the disease can be done at the ophthalmologist or optometrist. In the public sector, if an abnormality is detected then the patient is referred to the eye units in the hospitals available in all the regional health authorities.