Public hospital sees some 30 glaucoma patients daily

Some 25 to 30 glaucoma patients are seen on a daily basis at the Georgetown Public Hospital, Consultant Ophthalmologist and Glaucoma Specialist Dr Shailendra Sugrim has said.

Dr Sugrim, who heads the hospital’s Department of Ophthalmology, said too that close to 30 operations for the condition which can lead to blindness are carried out every year.

Speaking to Stabroek News last Saturday as World Glaucoma Week ended, Dr Sugrim revealed that Guyanese of African origin are more prone to develop open angle glaucoma, which is the most common type of glaucoma, and are more likely to have family members with glaucoma. He also revealed that glaucoma in African-Guyanese is usually more severe and more difficult to treat. Glaucoma is a condition that causes damage to the eye’s optic nerve; it gets worse over time. It’s often associated with a buildup of pressure inside the eye. It tends to be inherited and may not show up until later in life.

Junior Medical Officer, Dr Bobb-Semple, doing an ophthalmoscopy.
Junior Medical Officer, Dr Bobb-Semple, doing an ophthalmoscopy.

Dr Sugrim said that the outpatient department (Eye Clinic) handles a heavy burden of patients on a daily basis with approximately 200-300 patients being seen per day which includes regular follow-ups, emergencies and new patients. “The major eye conditions seen on a daily basis include Cataract, Glaucoma, Diabetic Retinopathy, Eye Trauma and Eye Infections. The department also encounters rare cases such as eye cancers and congenital malformations,” he added.

He said too that while glaucoma medications are very expensive for the average person, the hospital provides at least 3 to 4 categories of medication free of charge and that glaucoma patients repeat their medications on a monthly basis.

According to a release from the GPH, the World Glaucoma Association and World Glaucoma Patient Association designated March 9 to 15 World Glaucoma Week. Theme for this year’s campaign was ‘B-I-G – Beat Invisible Glaucoma’. This campaign was chosen because of the fact that many people suffer with glaucoma and do not know it. It’s called invisible glaucoma because the disease acts silently by causing damage to the optic nerve without the patient having any notable symptoms. Hence, bit by bit over the years this damage continues, unknown to the patient, until the entire nerve is destroyed. This nerve damage (called glaucomatous optic neuropathy) is permanent and cannot be reversed. Hence, at that time when the patient begins experiencing visual symptoms, there would already be significant nerve damage. Thus, there is need for screening for the disease. Once glaucoma is diagnosed in the early stages, treatment can commence, and thereby prevent persons from becoming blind unnecessarily. Glaucoma can be controlled with treatment so that patients can enjoy comfortable vision throughout their life.

The release added that management of glaucoma at the hospital includes constant follow-up visits to the eye clinic to have eye pressure checked and for the ophthalmologist to evaluate whether the eye drops are controlling the glaucoma. The visual field examination results of patients are evaluated on a regular basis to ensure that the optic nerve is being protected from further damage.

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