Rebecca Ejifoma, Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
The Ophthalmological Society of Nigeria (OSN) and the South East Ophthalmologist’ Forum (SEOF) have raised alarm that unless urgent steps were taken by the policy makers, an appreciable percentage of residents of the five states of the South-east might go blind very soon.
The alarm was sequel to the outcome of a research conducted by the eyecare specialists in the country, which showed that the South-east has the highest prevalence of severe visual impairments of people over 40 years, with two per cent of residents of the zone already down with the disease.
Already, eye specialists from all the specialists hospitals in Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi and Imo states have converged in Enugu State for a one-day brainstorming session on how to find solution to the problem. The session would also commence fresh research on why the zone is the worst hit compared to other zones of the country. The session was sponsored by Pfizer Nigeria.
Addressing newsmen in Enugu, the chairperson of SEOF, Prof. Rich Umeh, the National President of the Ophtamological Society of Nigeria, Prof. Sebastine Nwosu and the facilitator of the forum, Dr. Nkiru Akaraiwe said the challenge had become worrisome.
According to the specialists, glaucoma blindness was the commonest eye disease in the zone with prevalence rate of 1.2 per cent compared to other zones with less than 0.3 per cent, adding that the implication was that out of every 100 blind persons, one or two would have glaucoma.
“This is obviously genetic, not because of what we eat or drink. We want to alert people on the need to go through eye checks once or twice every year. If you have a relative that had eye problem, the person is using glasses or the person is blind, it simply means you have to subject your entire family to go through glaucoma check immediately because glaucoma will not give you any signal before it comes,” Umeh noted.
She noted that though the research was conducted 10 years ago, other studies done segmentally have shown that the situation had worsened, adding that it had become imperative for specialists, and policy makers to equally come up with new strategies.
“Forty years is actually the most active year and it will be unthinkable for young men to get to irreversible blindness. We must do something urgently,” she stated.
Meanwhile, the Director Corporate Affairs, Pfizer Nigeria and East Africa region, Margaret Olele said the company was committed to contributing to patient care in the communities, while also exploring more opportunities with relevant stakeholders to reduce the burden of glaucoma.
“Pfizer is committed to contributing positively to patient care in our communities whilst exploring more opportunities with relevant stakeholders to reduce the burden of Glaucoma. The Glaucoma Symposium is designed to update healthcare professionals on the latest advances in medical and surgical management of Glaucoma. It highlights insights in Glaucoma management, medications, surgical techniques and the burden of Glaucoma in Sub- Saharan Africa and Nigeria “.