Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is recommending regular eye check-ups for people who are at high risk of developing glaucoma, an eye disease that usually has no obvious symptoms but can lead to blindness.
“To prevent blindness or a significant loss of vision due to glaucoma, we are advising people at risk to ensure they have their eyes checked once a year or at least every two years. Risk factors for glaucoma include being over 40 years of age, having a family history of glaucoma, being of African, Hispanic or Asian heritage, having diabetes, a history of elevated eye pressure, a decrease in corneal thickness and rigidity, being nearsighted, or having a previous eye injury,” stated Dr Zakia al-Ansari, glaucoma consultant at Hamad General Hospital’s Ophthalmology Department.
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 and progresses to the central vision. People with glaucoma require lifelong treatment to maintain their vision. If left untreated, the disease can lead to complete blindness,” explained Dr al-Ansari.
Every year in March, HMC observes World Glaucoma Week as part of the global campaign by the World Glaucoma Association and the World Glaucoma Patients Association to raise awareness of the disease.
“HMC’s World Glaucoma Week campaign will highlight the importance of prevention and early detection and supports HMC’s agenda for promoting good eye health in Qatar and preventing glaucoma, which is a major cause of blindness among our population,” noted Dr al-Ansari.
According to Dr al-Ansari, over 400 patients with glaucoma are treated at HMC’s Ophthalmology Department each month. She said there has been an increase in the number of new cases diagnosed in recent years, noting that last year 27 new cases were diagnosed from the approximately 600 people screened, compared to only three new diagnoses in 2017 from over 500 people screened.
“Open angle glaucoma is called the silent thief because the patient does not feel any symptoms at the first stage of the disease. As the disease progresses, the patient will start to notice visual impairments and a constricted visual field due to damage to the optic nerve,” added Dr al-Ansari.