Patients must take ownership for their disease, says WGD project leader

March 6, 2008

George N. Lambrou, MD, is global project leader of World Glaucoma Day as well as executive vice chairman of the liaison committee of the World Glaucoma Patient Association, a co-sponsor of the event. Ophthalmology Times Europe spoke with Dr. Lambrou to gauge his hopes for this global initiative and his dream of patients taking ownership of their disease.

Athens, Greece-George N. Lambrou, MD, is global project leader of World Glaucoma Day (WGD) as well as executive vice chairman of the liaison committee of the World Glaucoma Patient Association (WGPA), a co-sponsor of the event. Ophthalmology Times Europe spoke with Dr. Lambrou to gauge his hopes for this global initiative and his dream of patients taking ownership of their disease so that, together, patients and specialists can work to reduce the number of undiagnosed glaucoma cases to 20% by 2020. Dr. Lambrou is affiliated with the Athens (Greece) Institute of Ophthalmology.

What outcomes do you expect from the global initiative?

Firstly, we are looking to WGD as a way to jump start the world's awareness activities. Every day, in clinics across the world, ophthalmologists are examining patients who are nearly blind because of glaucoma. If people were routinely screened, this needn't be the case because the disease would be diagnosed and treated earlier, thus preventing blindness.

By raising awareness of glaucoma, the number of undiagnosed cases of glaucoma could realistically be reduced from 50% (in the developed world) to 20%.

This vision is achievable, particularly because of the positive reactions from his fellow glaucoma specialists.

People are saying 'yes, I want to do something for my community,' and it is this attitude that is building momentum and makes me very optimistic.

The second thing I hope that WGD will achieve is an official recognition by health-care providers and policy makers, that glaucoma-and in particular its high undiagnosed rate-is a problem. For various reasons, glaucoma is not seen as an unmet medical need that has to be addressed by governments.

If you lose your sight because you are unlucky enough to have a disease for which there is no cure, that is one thing, but to lose your sight simply because you were not screened in time, that is another story entirely and I hope governments will start recognizing and dealing with this problem soon.

How can patients take ownership of their disease?

A resolution called "the Glaucoma Patient's Bill of Rights," states that patients have a right to comprehensive information on their glaucoma risk status.

Patients should no longer be satisfied with simply knowing whether they do or do not have glaucoma. They should have the right to know their IOP-like they know their blood pressure-if their optic disk is at risk of being damaged, if they are at risk of developing glaucoma and, if so, what the risk factors are. Patients need to know this information and they need to know what it means to them.

A second initiative that we hope to launch is called "No more than 20 by 2020." By the year 2020 we want there to be no more than 20% of undiagnosed glaucoma cases in developed countries.

What WGD events will make the biggest impact?

I would like to mention the Geneva marathon. People from the local glaucoma department participated in raising glaucoma awareness. Also, in the United Kingdom, a screening event was planned at the Houses of Parliament. These are great because they are such high visibility events.

Hopefully, WGD will be a success and we can start to eliminate what, in effect, is an unnecessary cause of blindness.