BY ISAIAH BENJAMIN
Worried by the adverse effect glaucoma could have on the sight of an individual, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) medical services yesterday held an awareness lecture on the silent course of blindness and offered free screening for its personnel, their families and members of their host communities at the NAF base in Kaduna.
Speaking at the occasion,the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) who was the guest of honour noted that glaucoma is a serious problem in Nigeria and has led to so many people’s blindness, adding that the National Blindness and Visual Impairment Survey in Nigeria which was conducted between 2005 to 2007 indicated that the prevalence of blindness in Nigeria is 4.2 percent and galucoma was the second commonest cause of bindness at 16.7 percent after catarract.
CAS who was represented by the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) Training Command, Kaduna, Air Vice Marshal Christopher Okoye, further reiterated the importance of a healthy eyes to an individual stressing that, ” Without the eyes, a human being can barely function, and with poor eyesight, the productivity of an individual especially in a fighting force like NAF would be seriously compromised.”
He added, ” It is imperative that existing resources are used effectively to target the major avoidable causes of blindness in our domains. Whether Glaucoma would eventually result in blindness largely depends on the time of diagnosis.
“When the diagnosis is made very early and treatment is initiated, the outcome is better than with cases diagnosed late, hence it is essential to detect glaucoma early through screening programmes in order to prevent blindness from diseases.
“NAF has provided modern equipment for early detection of glaucoma in the various NAF hospitals including 461, Kaduna, it is hoped that these equipment and the available trained personnel in our various hospitals would be fully utilised by all personnel and their families as well as the teeming populations around our Bases to conduct regular checks in order to detect the disease Early enough to prevent the consequences of late diagnosis.”
He therefore urged personnel and their families and members from within their host communities to take advantage of the facilities and services being provided at the 461 NAF hospital Kaduna while commending the Chief of Medical Services for organising the awareness and screening programme.
On his part, the Chief of Medical Services, Air Vice Marshal Saleh Shinkafi said the programme is one of the laudable initiatives by the CAS adding that it us intended to raise awareness on the ailment.
He noted that the NAF recognises the importance of glaucoma as a leading cause of irreversible blindness, stressing that, the programme further attests’ to the importance the service attaches to the welfare of personnel particularly their vision.
Presenter of the awareness lecture and Head of Ophthalmology Department, NAF hospital, Kaduna, Wing Commander Ahmed Saidu said 6.3 million aged Nigerians go blind due to glaucoma adding that “It occurs when there is an increased eye pressure due to excess accumulation of aqueous fluid of the eye or due to poor drainage of the fluid.”
While highlighting that blacks, aged people and hypertensives patients are more at risk of developing glaucoma, he noted that in advanced stage of glaucoma, there is loss of peripheral vision and people may start missing objects to the side and out of the corner of their eye.