Visitors to Hamad General Hospital’s (HGH) Outpatient Department have received a free glaucoma screening and awareness education at a booth set up by Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Ophthalmology Department as part of their annual World Glaucoma Week awareness campaign.
Glaucoma 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 progressing 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 screening and awareness campaign at HMC is part of the annual worldwide campaign held every March by the World Glaucoma Association (WGA) and World Glaucoma Patients Association (WGPA) to raise awareness of glaucoma. The WGA and WGPA said that the number of people with glaucoma is expected to increase to 76 million in 2020 if no concerted action is taken.
“Our World Glaucoma Week campaign highlights the importance of prevention and early detection of glaucoma and supports HMC’s agenda for promoting good eye health in Qatar. Glaucoma is a major cause of blindness among our population,” said Dr. Zakia Mohamed Al Ansari, Glaucoma Specialist at HMC’s Ophthalmology Department.
According to Dr. Al Ansari, thousands of patients have benefited from HMC’s glaucoma awareness campaign over the years. “During previous campaigns, we were able to provide free screening and education to thousands of visitors. In 2015 alone, we were able to screen up to 1000 visitors and we diagnosed 200 new cases of glaucoma. We have referred these patients to our ophthalmology team to receive specialized care. In 2016, our campaign was internal, focusing on HMC staff and our doctors in particular as we consider their eye health to be very important,” said Dr. Al Ansari.
Glaucoma medication, or surgical treatment when necessary, can prevent damage to the optic nerve by slowing the progression of the disease through reducing the elevated eye pressure often present in glaucoma. However, in rare cases, even patients within the normal range of eye pressure can develop the disease. This means many people could be slowly losing their eyesight without being aware they have glaucoma.
“A timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment are key to preventing blindness or a significant loss of vision due to glaucoma. We recommend that people at a high risk of developing glaucoma be tested every year or two years after the age of 35. Those at high risk of developing glaucoma include people of African descent, people with diabetes, those with a family history of glaucoma, and individuals who have had an eye injury or trauma,” said Dr. Al Ansari.