An official from Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) said that early detection is key to slowing the progression of glaucoma, a group of diseases that is said to be the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in Qatar.
According to Dr Zakia Mohamed Al Ansari, Glaucoma Consultant at the HMC Ophthalmology Department, more than 175 patients received treatment for glaucoma at HMC each month. Risk factors for the disease, according to Dr Al Ansari, include age (people over 40 years old are more prone), having a close relative with glaucoma, being of African or Hispanic heritage, diabetes, having high eye pressure, having a history of elevated intraocular pressure, being farsighted or nearsighted, poor circulation, or having health problems that affect the whole body.
Glaucoma is an eye disorder resulting from 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.’
Each year during March, HMC holds free glaucoma screenings and public awareness sessions to mark the World Glaucoma Week (11 to 17 March this year). According to Dr Al Ansari, the week provides an opportunity to draw attention to a disease that often has no obvious warning signs and to encourage people to undergo a comprehensive eye examination.
Regular screening for the early detection of glaucoma is important as the disease usually cause 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 emphasising the importance of regular eye exams. The frequency of screenings required should be determined based on age and the presence of risk factors.’
Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness for people over 60 years old, but blindness caused by glaucoma can often be prevented with early diagnosis and treatment. According to Dr Al Ansari, some individuals have a higher than normal risk of getting glaucoma, but the elimination of blindness caused by the common eye condition is possible with regular eye examinations.
To mark this year’s World Glaucoma Week, HMC is holding free glaucoma screenings and public awareness sessions at Doha Festival City. Staff from the Ophthalmology Department will provide free eye examinations and educate the public about glaucoma. An awareness booth will operate from 10 am to 8 pm daily, from 15 to 17 March. Last year, as part of its annual screening campaign, three new cases of glaucoma were diagnosed out of more than 500 individuals screened.
For more information, visit the HMC website at hamad.qa.