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2009 Glaucoma Week launched   
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The Ministry of Health on Wednesday appealed to the Ghana Health Service and the Society of Private Medical and Dental Practitioners to consider instituting free eye screening for all patients above 35 years during the celebration of World Glaucoma Day held annually on March 12 to help in the early detection of the disease.

Dr. Ben Kumbuor, the Deputy Minister of Health, said in a speech read on his behalf at the launching of Glaucoma Week in Accra, that the ministry had observed that prevention of the disease was less expensive option than treatment.

He said the ministry would ensure budgetary allocation for eye care diseases and prevention was improved and a percentage paid to the Glaucoma Association of Ghana (GAG) for advocacy and awareness creation activities.

The celebration on the theme "Glaucoma, Medications and National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS)" is to promote awareness on the disease through discussions on the television, radio and visit to institutions and churches, free eye screening.

Glaucoma exist when the intra ocular pressure has been raised over a period causing damage to the optic nerve with corresponding loss of visual function.

Untreated glaucoma results in blindness because of the irreversible damage it causes.

Dr Kumbuor said the ministry was negotiating with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to waive duties on glaucoma products and equipment for surgery and other minor operations which would be alternatives to the usage of medication and further lower the intra ocular pressure sufficiently.

He said the ministry had provided 6,500 Ghana cedis to support the establishment of a secretariat for the association.

Dr Imoro Braimah, an Ophthalmologist at Korle-bu Teaching Hospital, said the disease was a silent 'thief' of sight and the second cause of blindness after cataract.

He appealed to government to include some of the most efficacious glaucoma drugs on the NHIS Drug list to enable eye specialists select from the range of medications.

Dr Braimah said some patients reacted differently to some medications including a wide of range of drugs would make treatment effective.

He said glaucoma like diabetes and hypertension were diseases that could be managed and not cured and blindness could cost the nation dearly.

Dr Braimah noted that glaucoma affected Africans and African Americans than the whites and women more than men and attributed it to hereditary and the short sightedness of most women.

He said 37 million out of the 161 million affected people world-wide were Africans with over 600,000 of them in Ghana.

Dr Braimah said it affected people 30 years and above but because it was hereditary children could also be affected.

He said 15 per cent of blind cases could be prevented and 20 per cent partially blindness could be treated and noted that glaucoma like most diseases was linked to lack of awareness, education and poverty.

Dr Braimah urged Ghanaians to undergo screening, while those diagnosed should take their medication seriously.

Mr Harrison Abutiate, National President of the Association, said it had screened over 12,600 patients over the past 16 years in some parts of the country.

He said this year a free screening exercise would be held at Sogakope in the Volta Region on Saturday, October 31.

Mr Abutiate said glaucoma drugs were very expensive ranging from 30 to 40 Ghana cedis per month depending on the severity of the condition while surgical and minor treatment cost ranged from 150 to 450 Ghana cedis adding that the more damaged the eye the more expensive the treatment.

Early detection, screening and treatment, he said had become more urgent than before to prevent irreversible loss of sight.

On behalf of the association, Mr Abutiate presented a plaque to the family of the late Mr. B.K Glymin Snr, its first president, for his invaluable service to the association.

The family in turn presented 1,000 Ghana cedis to the association for its activities.

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