The condition can be difficult to diagnose because symptoms don’t appear straight away – instead, they develop slowly over many years. This means many patients only seek treatment when they notice they’re losing their sight, when significant damage has already occurred.
Glaucoma is a group of conditions caused by normal fluid in the eye that hasn’t drained properly. This creates pressure that damages the optic nerve connecting the eye to the brain, resulting in sight loss. Although it’s not clear exactly why this happens, factors such as age, family history, racial background and other medical conditions such as diabetes and short-sightedness can increase the risk. It can affect people of all ages, but it’s most common in adults.
There are different types of glaucoma, and treatment will depend on the type a patient has. Glaucoma can’t be cured, and vision that has already been lost cannot be restored. But further sight loss can be prevented via medication or surgery. Each glaucoma patient requires lifelong management for best results.
Yet the challenge in most African countries is that patients often don’t seek treatment for glaucoma until it is too late to save their sight. This is why we are working with partners in African countries to introduce pilot programmes to prevent and treat glaucoma.
Our aim is to make sure glaucoma diagnosis and treatment are incorporated into existing local eye health services, to ensure patients can be treated as soon as possible and their sight saved.