Posted on March 13, 2018

An official from Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) says early detection is the key to slowing the progression of glaucoma, a group of diseases that is a leading cause of vision loss and blindness in Qatar.
According to Dr. Zakia Mohamed Al Ansari, Glaucoma Consultant at HMC’s Ophthalmology Department, more than 175 patients receive treatment for glaucoma at HMC’s Ophthalmology Department each month.

She highlighted that risk factors for the disease include being over the age of 40, having a family member with glaucoma, being of African or Hispanic heritage, having diabetes, having high eye pressure, having a history of elevated intraocular pressure, being farsighted or nearsighted, having poor circulation, or having other health problems that affect the whole body. “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 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,” she explained.

Each March, HMC holds free glaucoma screenings and conducts public awareness sessions to highlight World Glaucoma Week, being held this year from 11 to 17 March. 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 causes 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 emphasizing the importance of regular eye exams. The frequency of screenings required should be determined based on age and the presence of risk factors,” she noted.

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.

“A timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment are key to preventing blindness or a significant loss of vision due to glaucoma. We recommend that individuals with an increased risk of developing glaucoma be tested every year or two years after the age of 35. Glaucoma medication, or surgical treatment when necessary, can prevent damage to the optic nerve by slowing the progression of the disease through reducing the elevated eye pressure often present in glaucoma. However, in rare cases, even patients who have what is considered to be within the normal range of eye pressure can develop the disease. This means many people could be slowly losing their eyesight without being aware they have glaucoma,” Dr. Al Ansari emphasized.

To mark this year’s World Glaucoma Week HMC will hold 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 from10am to 8pm daily from 15 to 17 March, 2018. As part of its annual screening campaign in 2017, more than 500 individuals were screened and three new cases of glaucoma were diagnosed.