Igbos at higher risk of glaucoma blindness ― Govt Survey


…Cannabis effective in glaucoma management says Prof. Onakoya

A Federal Government-backed survey on the prevalence of glaucoma in Nigeria has revealed that the people of the Southeast region are at greater risk of blindness resulting from glaucoma than any other ethnic group in the country. Professor Adesola Onokoya, the Ophthalmologist Society of Nigeria’s Glaucoma Group Chairperson, made this known at a public lecture to mark the 2020 Glaucoma Week, in Abuja weekend.

According to her, results from the latest Nigeria National Blindness and Visual Impairment Survey indicated that the Igbos had risk factors associated with glaucoma more than people of other ethnicities because they possessed larger optic disks and thinner corneas in the eyes. “These conditions may be due to genetic factors or mutations caused by substances or activities introduced in the Southeast region,” she added.

Onakoya, however, said deeper investigations were ongoing to ascertain the true picture of the situation in the region, considering the fact that the survey results were consistent with data provided by ophthalmologists in hospitals nationwide. On the use of cannabis to treat glaucoma, the Professor of Opthalmology in the University of Lagos said it is an effective remedy but warned against overdose and abuse of the drug. Onakoya said, “Studies have also shown that taking cannabis in certain quantities can help the management of glaucoma. “Even if smoked or taken in its most active form (cannabinoid) it will help provide a remedy for glaucoma but the amount needed to sustain the vision and prevent blindness could damage not just the brain but the whole person.

“That is why it is not advised and recommended to patients in as much as it could be effective.” Speaking also, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, who noted that there was sound epidemiological evidence to show that Igbos were more susceptible to loss of vision arising from glaucoma, said the Federal Ministry of Health in partnership with an NGO, Sightsavers Nigeria, has offered free glaucoma screening and treatment to over 500 persons in the FCT in 2020. He said, “After cataract, glaucoma accounts for 16.3 per cent of blindness in the country. The disease does not show any symptoms until there is vision loss which indicates it is already at an advanced stage. “We need more awareness on this disease.

That is why every Nigerians are encouraged to go for a regular eye check-up at least once a year.” Earlier, the Country Director of Sightsaver Nigeria, Dr Sunday Isiyaku, said the organization is seeking to use a health systems approach to reduce the number of people blind in Nigeria from untreated glaucoma. Vanguard

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