OFFICIAL ADDRESS TO THE NATION ON THE OCCASION OF WORLD GLAUCOMA WEEK: MARCH 11-17, 2018

Fellow Citizens and Residents of St. Kitts & Nevis:
The period March 11-17, 2018 is being observed in St. Kitts and Nevis as World Glaucoma Week. This year’s week of activities is being celebrated under the core theme of “Green = Go Get Your Eyes Tested for Glaucoma: Save Your Sight”.
World Glaucoma Week was started by the World Glaucoma Association (WGA) and the World Glaucoma Patient Association (WGPA) eight years ago as a means of increasing global awareness of this silent robber of sight. This ongoing international awareness campaign on glaucoma is meant to also encourage individuals to get their eyes tested regularly and to recognise that eye health is a key component of overall health and wellness. As such, glaucoma campaigns are designed by and for multiple stakeholder groups, including glaucoma patients, governments, hospitals, universities, donor agencies and eye care specialists. In St. Kitts and Nevis, the national advocacy regarding glaucoma is traditionally let by the Ministries of Health on both islands, with some support from special interest groups.
Glaucoma has been defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) defines glaucoma as a group of eye diseases that cause progressive damage to the Optic Nerve – the main nerve responsible for vision in the body. The Optic Nerve’s main function is to carry images to the brain. In a normal eye, the watery or aqueous fluid produced by the layer of cells behind the iris (or coloured portion of the eye) passes through the hole in the middle of the iris, (called the pupil), to leave the eye through a series of tiny drains. In glaucoma patients this fluid does not pass properly through the drainage system and, as a result, the pressure in the eye increases and places stress on the optic nerve. Over time, the constant pressure damages the nerve fibres.

The WHO has further determined that there are several different types of glaucoma with the two most common being (a) primary open angle glaucoma (POAG), whose onset is slow, subtle and harmful; and (b) angle closure glaucoma (ACG), which is more acute and less common. Regardless of the type of glaucoma one has been diagnosed with, what is undeniable is that the disease results in the progressive loss of side vision, often referred to as peripheral vision. Left untreated, central vision loss can develop, followed by eventual blindness.
Glaucoma has been described as ‘the silent thief of sigh’ because it develops gradually over time without symptoms. It is for this reason that it is important that persons police their health via regular or annual vision checks. It is equally important to note that in many instances glaucoma symptoms only manifest when the disease is far advanced and irreversible damage to the sight has been done. Once vision is lost to glaucoma it cannot be corrected. Glaucoma is also ranked as the 2nd most common cause of blindness globally, with cataracts being deemed the leading cause. Some 6 million persons in the world are blind as a result of glaucoma.

 

This means that just over 12% of all blindness in the world is as a result of glaucoma. By the year 2020, it is expected that some 11.2 million persons would have been diagnosed with glaucoma. Some of the chronic glaucoma risk factors to consider are:
Age – it is unusual for people under the age of 40 to be diagnosed with glaucoma. Some studies indicate that 1% of persons over 40 have glaucoma, with this rate being increased to 5% for persons over age 65.

 Race – Persons of African descent appear to be more pre- disposed to having glaucoma than any other ethnic group.

 Family History – Persons with a family history of glaucoma should be particularly vigilant of the eye disease, and endeavour to have annual eye exams after age 40.

Short Sightedness – Persons who have been diagnosed as being short sighted are more prone to developing glaucoma.
 Diabetes – It is been proven that persons with diabetes are at increased likelihood of developing glaucoma.

Our national statistics on glaucoma in our Federation -generated by our institution-based (hospital) services – illustrates the following:
 No. of Registered Cases of Glaucoma by the end of 2017 = 1,525
 No. of Clients Accessing Glaucoma Care in 2017 = 1,231
 No. of New Cases of Glaucoma = 191
 No. of Suspect Cases of Glaucoma = 116
 No. of Surgical Interventions for Glaucoma in 2017 = 02 (Trabeculectomies)

A Quite a number of activities have been planned to mark the observance of World Glaucoma Week in St. Kitts and Nevis. These include the following:

Sunday, March 11th – Church service was held at The Rehoboth Apostolic Church on Walwyn Avenue, Buckley’s Site to bless the week of activities;

Monday, March 12th – Tag Day Awareness – for World Glaucoma Day; visit to the Cardin Home and home visits to glaucoma patients;

Tuesday, March 13th – Breakfast Sale at the Ophthalmic Unit (Eye Clinic) at JNF General Hospital;

Wednesday, March 14th – (a) Educational Lecture discussion at 10:00 a.m. at the Eye Clinic at JNF General Hospital; and (b) Social Evening lead by the Staff of the Eye Clinic;

Thursday, March 15th – Glaucoma Awareness Walk and Bike Ride from the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) Roundabout to Frigate Bay lawn adjacent to Timothy Beach Resort, starting at 4:00 p.m.

Friday, March 16th – Glaucoma Awareness T-shirt Day with Clinic as per Established Schedule
As always, the Federal Ministries of Health encourage the general public to support the various activities being staged for World Glaucoma Week 2018 by the staff of the Eye Clinic at the JN France General Hospital. We have an individual and collective responsibility to protect and preserve our vision. We should also consider vision care a vital part of our general health and well-being.

It is a serious and costly mistake to take our eyesight for granted – and then regrettably suffer from glaucoma – which can eventually lead to permanent vision loss. Living a life where the light has been taken from us is a major loss, and a permanent disability that affects our ability to live independently. Our Team Unity Government wants our citizens and residents to live happy, industrious and productive lives for as long as possible. The Ministries of Health again urge everyone to get regular vision checks in order to increase our chances of preserving our vision for as long as possible.
On behalf of the Federal Government of St. Kitts and Nevis I am pleased to declare World Glaucoma Week 2018 officially open.

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