Glaucoma is often called ‘the silent thief of sight’ because it has no early symptoms and can slowly and painlessly cause permanent loss of vision before the patient is aware. An estimated 76 million people globally have glaucoma and approximately 4.5 million people are blind because of the condition. And these numbers are on the rise.
Aiming to tackle these issues is a global glaucoma initiative called Keep Sight, which sees Sightsavers working in partnership with Allergan and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB). The pilot began in October 2019 in India with Sightsavers’ local partner, Sankara Eye Hospital, and in Nigeria with an eye screening day at the Federal Secretariat in Abuja.
Although incurable, glaucoma can be controlled with medication or surgery, and eye screening is vital to catching the condition early on.
Sightsavers’ Global Technical Lead on Eye Health, Kolawole Ogundimu, said: “It is very apt that glaucoma is known as the ‘silent thief of sight’. It creeps up on people and catches them unawares because the symptoms are not easy to spot. By the time they realise they have the condition it is too late – they have lost their sight. And this is a blindness which cannot be corrected.
“This is especially true in areas of the world where there is not a strong eye health system which is why it is so exciting that we now have this bold new initiative to tackle it. Keep Sight will make a real difference to people living with glaucoma in places where the need is greatest, and it is great to be able to mark it this World Glaucoma Week.”
Keep Sight is the eye care industry’s first, multi-year initiative to tackle avoidable blindness from glaucoma in low and middle income countries with the highest unmet need. It aims to strengthen health systems by working with ministries of health to provide essential training for healthcare professionals to screen, diagnose and provide specialist care to those most at risk.
Thanks to Keep Sight, more than 8,000 people have already been screened for glaucoma since October 2019. It is anticipated that the initiative will expand to eventually screen 500,000 people in countries where glaucoma is a particular problem.
Glaucoma is caused when pressure builds up inside the eye, leading to pressure that damages the optic nerve. If it’s not treated in time, it can cause blindness.More about glaucoma
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