The Ghana Optometry Association (GOA) has called for a review of the eye care policy for glaucoma to reduce its high prevalence in the country.
The GOA noted that the Ministry of Health must lead in ensuring that the needed glaucoma management policy was put in place to encourage all relevant professionals in the management process to work towards changing the narrative.
Dr Alfred Gardemor, GOA Public Relations Officer speaking at the “GNA-GOA My Eye! My Vision” platform to mark the glaucoma week said, said present data put Ghana at second in prevalence globally, and the country with the highest prevalence in Africa.
Dr Gardemor who is a senior Optometrist at the Nsawam Government Hospital added that cases of glaucoma needed to receive significant attention in Ghana as it was the leading cause of irreversible blindness globally.
He said, “the total number of blind people in Ghana presently is estimated to be about 232,500 persons of which as high as 45,000 are through glaucoma,” stressing that about half a million people aged 40 years and above lived with glaucoma in Ghana.
He said the collaborative approach for the management process must cover rehabilitative care, training, and distribution of more ophthalmologists, optometrists, and ophthalmic nurses to help in the fight to reduce blindness due to glaucoma.
He said Optometrists must be readily employed by the government to be able to care for a larger number of patients and manage more glaucoma patients who he said would be able to access their care due to the benefits of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
Dr Gardemor also called for the training of more eye care professionals explaining that currently, even though Ghana has the highest prevalence of glaucoma in Africa it could boast of a little over 100 ophthalmologists, 300 optometrists a number of ophthalmic nurses with a larger number of them being in the private sector.
“Doctors of optometry are trained in glaucoma care but are mostly found in the private sector where they care for both optical and medical care including glaucoma management,” he said.
Dr Gardemor, mentioning the risk factors of glaucoma said everybody was at risk, adding, however, that those at a higher risk were people with a family history of blindness, African race, individuals aged 40 years and above.
He added that those with medical conditions such as Diabetes and, or Hypertension, as well as people with abnormally high eye pressures (intraocular pressures) were all at a higher risk of having glaucoma.
Glaucoma, he said was a common eye disease that was a leading cause of irreversible blindness if left undiagnosed and untreated, as they damaged the optic nerve essential for good vision as a result of abnormally elevated eye pressures.
Dr Gardemor said even though there were several types of glaucoma, the two major ones of concern were the Angle Closure Glaucoma (a medical emergency that includes severe pain, nausea, and sudden reduction in vision), and Open-Angle Glaucoma which was the commonest.
He indicated that the open-angle type also has minimal or close to no symptoms although it leads to slow vision loss-making glaucoma earn the name, the ‘silent thief of sight.’
The GOA PRO said the disease could only be detected by a test conducted by an eye care doctor, therefore there was the need to do regular checks for early detection and treatment.