Even as the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPHC) concluded its week of glaucoma screening activities, the institution is urging members of the public to get screened since many people who suffer from the disease still do not know they have it.
In particular, screening is especially important for specific groups such as Afro-Guyanese who are prone to the most common type of glaucoma found in Guyana, open angle glaucoma.
From March 11 through 15, 2019, the hospital hosted its annual glaucoma awareness activities and screened a total of 205 patients, 11 of which were suspected to be victims of the disease and one person who was confirmed as having the disease.
These patients, according to the hospital’s Consultant Ophthalmologist, Dr. Shailendra Sugrim, have been recommended for further evaluation.
The recent screening activity represented the hospital’s observance of World Glaucoma Week.
For the past nine years the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation [GPHC] has been annually coordinating Glaucoma Awareness Activities as part of the local observance of World Glaucoma Week. This year the observance spanned the period March 10 through 16 and was spearheaded by the hospital’s Department of Ophthalmology. Among the activities was free glaucoma screening sessions and the distribution of glaucoma awareness posters.
Patients of the hospital’s Ophthalmology Department were the beneficiaries of free Glaucoma Screening Sessions which were conducted under the theme ‘Check your eyes for Glaucoma’.
According to Dr. Sugrim, this year’s World Glaucoma Week campaign was chosen because of the fact that many people suffer with glaucoma and they still do not know it. “It’s called invisible glaucoma because the disease acts silently by causing damage to the optic nerve [the eye nerve which allows us to see the world] without the patient having any notable symptoms. Hence, bit by bit over the years this damage continues, unknown to the patient, until almost the entire nerve is destroyed,” the Ophthalmologist explained. This nerve damage (called glaucomatous optic neuropathy), Dr. Sugrim said, is permanent and cannot be reversed.
He disclosed that in Guyana, Open Angle Glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma occurs when, the angle in the eye where the iris meets the cornea is as wide and open as it should be, but the eye’s drainage canals become clogged over time, causing an increase in internal eye pressure and subsequent damage to the optic nerve.
Dr. Sugrim revealed that patients of Afro-Guyanese origin are more prone to develop open angle glaucoma and are more likely to have family members suffering from glaucoma. He noted that glaucoma in Afro-Guyanese patients is usually very severe and more difficult to treat. Treatment for patients at the GPHC includes: medications [eye-drops] and laser procedures or surgery.