In Guyanese patients, Open-Angle Glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma. In open-angle glaucoma, the angle in the eye where the iris meets the cornea is as wide and open as it should be, but the eye’s drainage canals become clogged over time, causing an increase in internal eye pressure and subsequent damage to the optic nerve.
In fact, it has been found that patients of Afro-Guyanese origin are more prone to develop open-angle glaucoma and are more likely to have family members suffering from glaucoma.
This is according to Head of Ophthalmology of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation [GPHC], Dr. Shailendra Sugrim, who revealed that glaucoma in Afro-Guyanese patients is usually very severe and more difficult to treat.
According to Dr. Sugrim, over the past years, patients at the hospital have been exposed to the two common methods of treating glaucoma, that is, medication [eye-drops] and laser procedures or surgery.
For the past nine years, the GPHC has been annually coordinating Glaucoma Awareness Activities as part of the local observance of World Glaucoma Week. This year the observance spanned the period March 10-16 and was spearheaded by the hospital’s Department of Ophthalmology.
Among the activities was free glaucoma screening sessions and the distribution of glaucoma awareness posters.
Patients of the hospital’s Ophthalmology Department were the beneficiaries of free Glaucoma Screening Sessions which were conducted under the theme ‘Check your eyes for Glaucoma’. The sessions were held daily [March 11th – 15th] from 12:00 hours to 14:00 hours with a total of 205 patients being attended to when the screening came to an end. Of these, 11 patients were glaucoma suspects who were recommended for further evaluation, said Dr. Sugrim. He revealed too that one patient was confirmed to be suffering from glaucoma.
The week’s observance also saw hospital staffers including: clerks, nurses, optometrists, physicians and ophthalmologists taking advantage of routine glaucoma investigations such as vision testing, eye pressure testing [tonometry] and examination of the eye nerve [funduscopy].
Alluding to the distribution of Glaucoma Awareness Posters, Dr. Sugrim said that the hospital’s Ophthalmology Department collaborated with Medi Pharma Inc. to design a Poster to spread awareness about Glaucoma to the general public. Distribution of these have already started and they will be distributed countrywide with a view of encouraging patients to have their eyes screened for Glaucoma. Medi Pharma Inc is a local Pharmaceutical Distribution Company with interest in health education and public awareness.
According to Dr. Sugrim, this year’s World Glaucoma Week campaign was chosen because of the fact that many people suffer with glaucoma and they still do not know it.
“It’s called invisible glaucoma because the disease acts silently by causing damage to the optic nerve [the eye nerve which allows us to see the world] without the patient having any notable symptoms. Hence, bit by bit over the years this damage continues, unknown to the patient, until almost the entire nerve is destroyed,” the Ophthalmologist explained.
This nerve damage [called glaucomatous optic neuropathy], Dr. Sugrim said, is permanent and cannot be reversed. Hence, at that time when the patient begins to start experiencing visual symptoms, they would have already had significant nerve damage. Thus, the need for early screening of the disease is imperative the Ophthalmologist said.
“Once glaucoma is diagnosed early, treatment can be started early, and hence prevent persons from becoming unnecessarily blind. Glaucoma can be controlled with treatment so that patients can enjoy comfortable vision throughout their life,” said Dr. Sugrim.
“The earlier the diagnosis, the less damage done and the more vision there is to save,” said Dr. Sugrim as he emphasised that the GPHC’s Department of Ophthalmology offers services for both diagnosing and treating Glaucoma.
“The hospital offers daily eye clinics on weekdays where patients can be given eye examinations for the detection of Glaucoma,” the Ophthalmologist noted even as he revealed that patients need to be referred by a general physician to the hospital before they can obtain an appointment for any service.
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