Why glaucoma is more prevalent in black race

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Close up of an eye and vision test chart
Glaucoma test: Close up of an eye and vision test chart

By Felicia Imohimi

The Nigerian Optometric Association (NOA) says glaucoma is more prevalent in the black race, an official told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Abuja.

Dr Justice Nzerem, Secretary of the Nigerian Optometric Association (NOA), World Glaucoma Week Committee, disclosed this on the sideline of a symposium on World Glaucoma Week (WGW) organised by the association.

Nzerem, who specifically identified Nigeria as having high burden of the disease, attributed this to lack of access to eye care, race as well as poor health seeking behaviour of the populace.

He said that if large number of Nigerians could have access to eye care such disease burden would be detected early and treated.

He faulted the estimated number of Nigerians presently affected with the disease, adding that based on the free glaucoma screening conducted by some members of the association the burden was higher than expected.

”In random sampling the prevalence is high because I had an instance where I screened five persons I saw as high as three cases and another instance where I screened five I had one among them.

“This shows that in a random sampling the prevalence is high and the most important thing is that most of these persons are unaware.

“Glaucoma is more prevalent in black people and Nigeria is the largest black nation in Africa which explains the high prevalence of glaucoma among other risk factors.

“It is actually more of epidemic at the moment. We should pay more attention to the disease and the bane of treatment is early detection. Once its detected early in a patient, there is a whole lot to do to preserve the person’s vision.

“But in situation whereby large junk of the vision is lost, nothing can be done to regain the lost vision, the only thing that can be done is to preserve the little one left,” Nzerem said.

He urged the government to intensify efforts to ensure the reduction of the disease burden and its associated irreversible blindness.

He urged the government to incorporate eye care in the Primary Health care system to ensure prompt access to eye care by the populace as well as ensure early detection of glaucoma.

According to him, early detection is key to preserve the vision of glaucoma patients.

He urged the public to go for eye examination at least once a year.

”If you are diagnosed of any eye condition, follow your doctor’s advice and if he says you should come once, twice, every three or six months follow it religiously to preserve your vision.”

Dr Ozy Okonokhua, President of the Association noted that WGW was an opportunity provided by the International Agency for the Prevention of blindness to sensitise the public on the prevalence, the causes and dangers posed by glaucoma.

The week is commemorated annually from March 10 to March 16 with the theme “Beat the Irreversible Glaucoma”.

Okonokhua, who lamented at the ravaging cause of blindness in the country identified the disease as currently the leading cause of irreversible blindness in Nigeria.

“Glaucoma is a silent thief of sight and we encourage Nigerians to form the culture of working into an eye clinic or healthcare centre to seek health care.

“We have generally poor health seeking behaviour in this country. Nigerians always like waiting for when things are wrong or there is an obvious effect before they work into an eye clinic or hospital.

“We encourage the populace to form the habit of seeking healthcare whether they are healthy or not; that is the only way to prevent glaucoma,” he advised.

Read also: Expert wants government, stakeholders to jointly battle glaucoma

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