Early detection key to slowing glaucoma progress, says expert

 14 Mar 2018 - 9:22

Early detection key to slowing glaucoma progress, says expert

By Fazeena SaleemĀ | The Peninsula

DOHA: With more than 175 patients receiving treatment each month for glaucoma, a major cause of blindness in Qatar, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) has highlighted the importance of early detection of the disease.

Early detection is the key to slowing the progression of glaucoma, a group of diseases that is a leading cause of vision loss and blindness in Qatar, said Dr  Zakia Mohamed Al Ansari (pictured), Glaucoma Consultant, Ophthalmology Department, HMC, speaking at a media briefing, yesterday.

“People with glaucoma don’t show symptoms until the disease reaches a very late stage therefore treatment becomes difficult. Vision will not return for people with glaucoma, what we do is to retain the vision they still have,” she said. 

Glaucoma is the second cause for blindness worldwide. It is an eye disorder which results in progressive damage to the optic nerve, the part of the eye that carries visual information from the retina to the brain. The condition has no known cause but is often associated with a buildup of pressure inside the eye. 

Glaucoma first affects the peripheral or side vision and then progresses to the central vision. People with glaucoma require lifelong treatment to maintain their vision and if left untreated, the disorder can lead to complete blindness.

“The risk factors for the disease include being over the age of 40, having a family member with glaucoma, being of African or Hispanic heritage, having diabetes, having high eye pressure, having a history of elevated intraocular pressure, being farsighted or nearsighted, having poor circulation, or having other health problems that affect the whole body,” said Dr Al Ansari. 

“Regular screening for the early detection of glaucoma is important as the disease usually causes no visible symptoms. In most cases, an individual is unaware they have the condition until it has caused irreversible damage, which is why we are emphasizing the importance of regular eye exams. The frequency of screenings required should be determined based on age and the presence of risk factors,” she added.

Different type of treatment is provided at the HMC  glaucoma cases depending on the condition of the patient.

“We have many new drops which are preservative-free and also help reducing allergy. We also provide glaucoma valve implant. This is an implant surgically fixed in the eye to control the pressure. We have conducted around 40 such cases since 2015,” said Dr Al Ansari.

To mark this year’s World Glaucoma Week, HMC is holding free glaucoma screenings and public awareness sessions until March 17.  The events will be held at the Hamad General Hospitals as well as at the Doha Festival City. Staff from the Ophthalmology Department will provide free eye examinations and educate the public about glaucoma.

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