World Glaucoma Day Address by Hon. Marcella Liburd, Minister of Health

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases characterized by progressive optic nerve damage and associated peripheral or (side) vision loss and blindness. It is usually associated with elevated pressure in the eye but can also occur with normal eye pressures.

It is estimated that approximately 300,000 people have glaucoma; it is also estimated that the number will grow to 400,000 by the year 2025. Glaucoma is most prevalent among people of African origin. Its onset is usually at age 50. However, among people of African descent, the onset can be at a younger age, thirty (30) to forty (40) years. The risk increases with age and it tends to run in families. The risk of developing glaucoma is also high in patients with diabetes and hypertension, persons who have had eye injuries and complications following certain eye surgeries.

Most of the patients with glaucoma are over sixty (60) years but babies can be born with glaucoma. In St. Kitts and Nevis, most of the patients with glaucoma, inherited the condition. Rubella or german measles can cause glaucoma in children, especially babies; however, due to our excellent immunization coverage this is not a major concern in St. Kitts and Nevis. According to our data, it is estimated that there are eight hundred and sixty-four (864) persons over the age of forty (40) with glaucoma in St. Kitts and Nevis and 5.8% of them are legally blind.

World Glaucoma Day is intended to encourage people to have their eyes tested for glaucoma. Usually there are no signs and symptoms, especially in the early stages. It is therefore necessary that persons at risk of the condition have their eyes tested regularly. Early detection and treatment can prevent blindness. Just one examination can save your sight. Like the rest of the world, and along with the World Health Organization, Eye Care Caribbean, and Sight Savers, our vision and our goal is to eliminate preventable causes of blindness by the year 2020.

In St. Kitts, World Glaucoma Day is being celebrated with a number of activities from March 11th to 17th, 2013 under the theme: “The world is a wonder to see every day, so don’t let glaucoma get in the way. The activities include:

  1. 1.Beginning March 11th – Radio messages on ZIZ daily.

 

  1. 2.March 12th – World Glaucoma Day March.

 

  1. 3.March 15th – Screening of our healthcare providers at the Ministry of Health.

 

  1. 4.March 17th – Church Service at the Zion Moravian Church, at 9:30 a.m.

The government has put measures in place to ensure that patients can access affordable treatment for glaucoma. Patients can access eye care at the Eye Clinic, JNF General Hospital from Mondays to Fridays. Emergency care is also provided as required. Some of the eye drops used for glaucoma are provided by the pharmacy at the hospital and at the Pogson and Mary Charles pharmacies. Patients with glaucoma are encouraged to visit the ophthalmologist, or eye doctor, at least twice per year. All other persons, thirty (30) years and over, are encouraged to have their eyes tested at least once per year.

The Ministry of Health expresses sincerest gratitude to the Korean Embassy, the Rams Group of Companies, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, the Society for the Blind – President Rockliff Bowen and all the other members, the Lions Club, the Red Cross Society, patients, clients and the general public for partnering with us in this venture to bring about public awareness and to reduce the incidence of blindness in the Federation.

Thank you and may God bless you.

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