World Glaucoma Day sets sight on disease awareness

Ophthalmologists in more than 34 countries around the globe are busy planning events for World Glaucoma Day on March 6 to alert people to the devastating effects of glaucoma and the importance of having their eyes examined.

Key Points










Ophthalmologists in more than 34 countries around the globe are busy planning events for World Glaucoma Day on March 6 to alert people to the devastating effects of glaucoma and the importance of having their eyes examined.











The effort, led by four ophthalmologists in conjunction with the World Glaucoma Association (WGA) and the World Glaucoma Patient Association (WGPA), is one more attempt by physicians worldwide to make people aware that glaucoma is a blinding disease that largely can be prevented and treated. Across the world, glaucoma is the second-leading cause of blindness, behind cataracts in developing countries and behind wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in developed countries.

Unlike wet AMD, for which a treatment only recently has been discovered and which remains "incredibly expensive," the incidence of glaucoma-related blindness is "infuriating," said George N. Lambrou, MD, of the Athens (Greece) Institute of Ophthalmology. He is global project leader for the observance.











"Glaucoma has reliable diagnostic methods and cheap and effective treatments so that the incidence of glaucoma-related blindness could be significantly reduced if only patients would know about it and would care about getting screened and treated adequately," Dr. Lambrou said. "It is not an exaggeration to say that the main reason for glaucoma blindness is oversight, or, to be more provocative, sheer ignorance."

More than 300 events are being planned at more than 50 sites, with more being added daily to a worldwide database being kept by Dr. Lambrou, who also is the executive vice chairman of the WGPA Physician Liaison Committee.











Some ophthalmologists are planning free laser treatments; one ophthalmologist is running in the Geneva Marathon in Switzerland under the colors of the WGA; and a Colombian ophthalmologist is providing complimentary laser treatments to poor patients. Three countries-St. Kitts-Nevis, Dominica, and Antigua/Barbuda-are issuing commemorative postage stamps; Israel will use a special cancellation logo for all letters posted March 6.

Staggering numbers













The number of glaucoma cases is staggering. Physicians are frustrated by the number of people worldwide who do not know they have the disease and do not know they may be at risk.











According to Dr. Lambrou, specialists have predicted that by the year 2020, 80 million people worldwide will have glaucoma, and 11 million of these people will be blind in both eyes. In developed countries, only 50% of those with the disease are aware they have it; in underdeveloped countries, 90% or more of people with glaucoma are unaware that they have the disease or even have heard of it.