By Felicia Imohimi
The Nigerian Optometric Association (NOA) has called on the three tiers of government to provide free and mandatory glaucoma screening to reduce the burden of the disease on citizens.
Dr Ngozi Nwanekezie, the Chairperson of NOA, FCT Chapter, made the appeal in a sideline interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at an “awareness walk’’ to commemorate the World Glaucoma Week (WGW) on Thursday in Abuja.
NAN reports that the WGW is commemorated annually from March 11 to 17, and has as its 2018 theme “GREEN – Go get your eyes tested for Glaucoma: Save your Sight’’.
Nwanekezie, who described glaucoma as a group or a family of diseases that damages the optic nerves as well as one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide, alerted that it has no cure.
She said: “Glaucoma is a progressive disease that most frequently occurs in individuals from age 40 with the risk of the diseases increasing with age.’’
While saying that eye health is a right of every citizen, the chairperson urged government to ensure that Nigerians undergo a thorough eye examination to forestall the prevalence of the visual challenge and blindness in the country.
Nwanekezie who identified glaucoma treatment as a lifelong treatment, also called on government to subsidise the treatment to reduce the burden from patients diagnosed of such diseases.
The chairperson frowned at the burden of the disease in the country and attributed it to ignorance on the part of the populace about its harmful effect and high cost of medication.
“Government can do a lot by instituting free and mandatory eye screening in government hospitals especially for those from age 40 and above.
“Most eye ailments get worst from age 40 and above, and government is duty bound to ensure every single citizens have their eyes check whether they have money or not.
“This is because when they go blind they become a total burden to the entire society, though eye treatment is included in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) but not in totality.
“The cost of drug for glaucoma is high and since it is a lifelong treatment, government should subsidise the drugs so that people with such diseases can afford it since they will buy it for the rest of their lives,’’ Nwanekezie said.
She said the day was set aside by the World Association of Glaucoma to create awareness on glaucoma and its associated risks.
The chairperson noted that the sensitisation was necessitated because early detection was the only way one could safeguard the eyes against the associated blindness.
Nwanekezie, however, urged members of the public to avail themselves of free glaucoma screening opportunity in all private hospitals between now and Saturday to ascertain their actual eye health status.
She specifically identified “Just Vision Eye Clinic’’ at Next Cash and Carry Complex, Gwarimpa Express Way, and “Opticare Eye Clinic’’, Machina Plaza, Wuse 2, Abuja, as presently offering free glaucoma screening.
“It has been proven that if one is detected of glaucoma early you can protect and have preserve vision, but if glaucoma blinds the eyes nothing can be done about it,’’ she said.
Similarly, Dr Ozy Okonokhua, Fellow of NOA, said every second Thursday of March has been set aside to alert the public on the danger posed by the eye disease.
Okonokhua also an optometrist at the Department of Medical and Diagnostics, FCTA Health and Human Services Secretariat, described glaucoma as a silent thief of sight as it comes unannounced.
According to him, victims of glaucoma suffer irreversible damage usually because of the sudden attack of the disease.