HMC’s ophthalmology department offers free glaucoma screening this week
Visitors to Hamad General Hospital’s (HGH) Outpatient Department this week are able to receive free glaucoma screening and awareness education at a booth set up by Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Ophthalmology Department, as part of their yearly World Glaucoma Week awareness campaign. The glaucoma screening and awareness campaign will continue until 12 March.
Glaucoma is an eye disorder where there is progressive damage to the optic nerve – the part of the eye that carries visual information from the eye’s retina to the brain. The condition has no known cause but is often associated with a buildup of pressure inside the eye. Glaucoma affects the peripheral or sideways vision first, and can move progressively the central vision. If left untreated it may lead to complete blindness. People with glaucoma require careful lifelong treatment to maintain their vision.
“Thousands of patients have benefited from HMC’s glaucoma awareness campaign over the years. During last year’s campaign alone, we were able to provide free screening and education to over 900 visitors, and were able to diagnose 39 new cases of glaucoma. In 2013, we diagnosed 32 cases among 1,483 people who came to our booth. We have referred these patients to our ophthalmology team to receive specialized care,” said Dr. Zakia Mohamed Al Ansari, Glaucoma Specialist at HMC’s Ophthalmology Department.
Glaucoma medication, or surgical treatment when necessary, can slow the progression of the disease by reducing the elevated eye pressure often present in glaucoma, in order to prevent damage to the optic nerve. However, in rare cases even patients with a normal range of eye pressure can develop the disease. This means many people could be slowly losing their eyesight without being aware that they have glaucoma.
“Timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment are key to preventing blindness or significant loss of vision due to glaucoma. We recommend that people at high risk for developing glaucoma be tested every year or two, after the age of 35. These include people of African descent, people with diabetes, those with a family history of glaucoma, and those who have had an eye injury or trauma,” said Dr. Al Ansari.
He advised that some precautions to prevent traumatic injury to the eyes, such as wearing protective eyewear when engaging in sports, can also help prevent glaucoma.