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Why there’s need to test for the deadly glaucoma

The world is becoming more aware of the importance of having good health with most of the focus on deadly cancers but as ERNEST JJINGO writes, glaucoma has emerged as a silent killer disease which usually attacks people above the age of 40, hence the need for regular tests.

Recently, Dr Agarwal’s Eye hospital carried out free automated eye screening investigations at The Observer offices for the staff and other workers. The one-day exercise enabled staff to know their eye status, take affirmative action where necessary and learnt proper eye care tips.

From the eye tests which were carried out, the opticians found out that glaucoma disease was the most common form of eye defect among the staff and discovered that about 12 people were myopic [short-sighted] and needed glasses to help improve on their vision.

According to Dr Najib Nkwanga, glaucoma disease is pressure of the eyes which damages the optic nerves. It is a silent killer disease which usually attacks people above the age of 40.

He identifies the risk factors for the disease as having a family history of glaucoma, diabetes, hypertension, blind relatives, sickle cell anemia, being extremely near-sighted or farsighted, eye injury and using eye drops for a long time.

Glaucoma also presents with throbbing pain [you feel like the eye is popping out and something is pushing it out]. Sometimes it is painless for majority which makes many people ignore the eye checkups.

“You could have that gene and you need to do intra-ocular pressures which is the only checkup for pressure of the eyes at least twice a year. However, most people are not aware of this checkup,” he said.

HOW BAD?

Dr Nkwanga said that they normally call glaucoma a silent killer disease because if someone’s vision has been affected, it’s irreversible.

“If we find you seeing a few meters, we do a surgery on you to maintain what you see but we can’t improve your vision. The only sure is to do a surgery to stop the pressures and maintain the little eye sight that you had,” he added.

Even though glaucoma is a very dangerous eye disease which can even cause total blindness within a few years, Dr Nkwanga says that the government has not come up with policies to address it and yet with time, it is becoming more common due to our lifestyles and changing genetics of people.

“Government needs to do things that will awaken people’s minds to check for glaucoma. Some people come to hospital when they are blind and we can’t change anything about it,” Dr Nkwanga noted.

On average, out of 10 people, at least half could have signs that show towards glaucoma.

PREVENTION

Dr Nkwanga says that even though avoiding this disease is a bit hard, measures such as taking a lot of water, controlling diabetes and hypertension, regular exercises, eating foods rich in Vitamin A like carrots, cucumber and greens, knowing your family’s eye health history, taking prescribed eye drops only, wearing eye protection and getting regular dilated eye examinations can help minimize the chances of getting affected by glaucoma.

“Everyone must ensure that they do a comprehensive eye checkup at least twice a year. Don’t wait until you are blind and then come to opticians,” he added.

Samuel Kirabo, an eye specialist at Dr Argawal’s Eye hospital, said that they came to offer eye checkup for The Observer staff because most staffs in companies don’t find time to go to hospitals since they are always busy especially for media houses where most people are into writing and reading and strain their eyes especially for those without glasses.

“People are always occupied with work and as Dr Argawal’s; this is part of our corporate social responsibility activities to reach out to such interested companies and we offer free eye check on request once approached by companies,” Kirabo added.

Kirabo further noted that one will never know that their eyes have issues until their sight has degraded and since it can be genetic, it is advisable that one checks for glaucoma as early as possible.

Consultation fee at the hospital is Shs 50,000 but those found in outreach camps pay Shs 25,000 and get more discounts on other related checkups if they got referrals from the camps.

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