Monday, March 16, 2009

All eyes on glaucoma

Sunday March 15, 2009

All eyes on glaucoma

Pfizer Malaysia behind a campaign to raise awareness of the eye disease, glaucoma.

IN conjunction with World Glaucoma Day 2009, which was celebrated on March 12, Pfizer Malaysia initiated the All Eyes on Glaucoma campaign. This campaign aims to increase public awareness of risk factors for glaucoma, which affects approximately 70 million people worldwide and is the world’s second leading cause of blindness.

It emphasises the importance of complete eye examinations, including assessment of the optic nerve, and the need for timely and appropriate diagnosis to help reinforce the importance of preserving vision.

The programme encourages patients with glaucoma and those at-risk to understand more about glaucoma and the practical steps that need to be taken to preserve eye health and prevent optic nerve damage.

The various elements of the campaign include:

·A multi-country survey assessing knowledge of glaucoma and its risk factors

·Investigate people’s attitudes and behaviour towards eye care

·Highlight the low priority and lack of understanding

·Provides access to clear advice helping people identify whether they are at-risk of developing the condition, and tips on protecting their vision

·Provides tools to help address concerns about glaucoma with their specialist, such as the “Am I at Risk” quiz and a “Conversation Starter” on important questions to ask an eye health professional.

·Empowers people to take ownership of their eye health

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the name given to a series of devastating diseases that irreversibly damage the eye’s optic nerve. If left unchecked, this can result in serious vision loss over time.

Glaucoma is commonly detected by measuring the pressure in the eye, also known as intraocular pressure (IOP). When eye pressure increases over time, the optic nerve becomes damaged.

Worldwide, an estimated 6.7 million people are blind from glaucoma, with approximately 70 million people living with the condition.

The only modifiable glaucoma risk factor is high eye pressure, though it is possible to develop the condition without it. Due to the build-up of natural fluid produced by the eye, high eye pressure causes permanent damage to the optic nerve, the “cable” used by the eye to communicate to the brain. High eye pressure may exist without noticeable symptoms so many people do not know they have it if their vision is not checked regularly.

In fact, people may not notice vision loss until 40% or more of their optic nerve has been damaged. IOP is an easily identifiable risk factor; however people who fall within the normal IOP range may still be at risk for glaucoma.

Risk factors for glaucoma

Since glaucoma may not demonstrate any early symptoms, it’s important to learn the risk factors and to discuss them with an eye health professional. The primary risk factors for glaucoma include:

·Increasing age

·Have a family history of glaucoma

·Have high intraocular pressure (IOP)

·Are markedly nearsighted

“Vision loss from glaucoma is permanent, so if you think you are at risk, early diagnosis could help ensure you have the best chance of maintaining your vision long term. World Glaucoma Day offers an educational opportunity for patients with glaucoma and those at risk for the disease. It reinforces the critical importance of having regular, complete eye examinations including assessment of the optic nerve and the need for appropriate treatment at all stages of the disease,” said Prof Dr Muhaya Hj. Mohamad, Chairperson of the Malaysian Medical Association Ophthalmology Society.

“In support of World Glaucoma Day, Pfizer commissioned the All Eyes on Glaucoma Asia survey to help Malaysians recognise and better understand the devastating consequences of glaucoma. We have seen first-hand the major impact glaucoma can have on patients’ daily lives, which is why we feel it is crucial to elevate the importance of eye health,” said Dr Vicknesh Welluppillai, Senior Medical Advisor, Pfizer Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei.

Global burden of glaucoma

“Delayed diagnosis of glaucoma not only affects patients’ lives, but it also often results in increased healthcare costs for both the individual and society as a whole,” added Professor Dr Muhaya.

The global burden of glaucoma, from both a humanistic and economic perspective, is significant at all stages of the disease. The impact of the disease increases as the disease advances. Proactive glaucoma management may potentially help reduce the overall disease burden on patients, society and the health economy.

The burden of the disease on patients is characterised by impact on patients’ daily lives, including their physical, sociological and mental health. In addition, the consequences of vision loss due to irreversible optic nerve damage can greatly affect one’s independence, such as the ability to drive and perform basic daily activities due to sensitivity to light, problems with glare, blurred vision and trouble seeing in dark places.

The economic burden of glaucoma consists of direct and indirect costs which have shown to increase as the disease progresses. For example, direct costs would constitute medication, eye health professional visits and procedures while indirect costs could include loss of productivity or days off from work. Earlier diagnosis and treatment may help reduce these costs incurred at later stages of the disease, reducing the overall economic burden on society.

A Malaysian perspective

The survey carried out in the campaign highlighted that the overall awareness of glaucoma amongst respondents across Asia was low. Malaysians were the least aware of glaucoma. About 70% of those surveyed did not know what glaucoma was and only 21% do know that it is linked to blindness.

Whilst cancer remains the disease that most frightens respondents, blindness is a close second. Approximately 67% of Malaysians fear blindness even more than premature death. Almost all the respondents acknowledged that glaucoma would impact their lives, mainly through their inability to work (68%), to drive (48%) or to leave their house (44%).

Nearly half of respondents in Malaysia (45%) had increased risk of developing glaucoma, mainly due to short sight, eye injury or other eye problems or due to high blood pressure. While Malaysian’s over 40 seem to be aware of the importance of checking their blood pressure, this is not the case with eye pressure. More than twice as many respondents had talked to their doctor about blood pressure than had undergone an eye pressure check.

The survey found that 61% of respondents do not have regular eye examinations, mainly because they do not think it is necessary. About 87% of those surveyed had not visited an eye doctor in the past year. Only one third of respondents in Malaysia were told by their doctor to see an eye specialist.

Additionally, there is a low-level of awareness of the need for eye-pressure tests with 74% of the respondents admitting that they have never had their eye-pressure checked. Even among those at risk of developing glaucoma, over half (58%) had not had their eye pressure checked.

Five tips on preventing glaucoma

These tips can serve as useful reminders that patients and eye health professionals can utilise to help ensure successful glaucoma management:

1. Remember to get a complete eye exam including assessment of your optic nerve.

2. Know your eye pressure or intraocular pressure (IOP).

3. Take your medication as prescribed.

4. Know your risk factors - raise awareness about the disease.

5. Visit an eye health professional if you are at risk – earlier diagnosis and appropriate treatment may potentially help reduce the overall impact of glaucoma.

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1. The All Eyes on Glaucoma™ Asia survey – sponsored by Pfizer Ophthalmics, supported by the World Glaucoma Association (WGA) and the World Glaucoma Patient Association (WGPA). The survey involved approximately 1000 respondents aged between 40-70 from nine countries including China, Hong Kong, India, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.

2. Traverso, CE, Walk, JG er al. Direct Costs of Glaucoma and Severity of the Disease: a Multinational Long Term Study of Resource Utilization in Europe. BR J Ophthalmol 2005; 89:1245-1249.

1 comment:

NetBizSavvy said...

The condition is very rare and causes a rapid loss of vision if not treated immediately. Glaucoma is common in the general population. There is literature available and community resources such as support groups and the Lighthouse for the Blind.