OFFICIAL ADDRESS TO THE NATION ON THE OCCASION OF WORLD GLAUCOMA WEEK: MARCH 12-18, 2017

Delivered by Wendy C. Phipps Minister of State with Responsibility for Health, Social Services, Community Development & Gender Affairs Monday, March 13, 2017

St. Kitts and Nevis joins the global community in observing World Glaucoma Week from March 12-18, 2017. The theme
for this year’s celebration is “B.I.G. – Beat Invisible Glaucoma”.

The brainchild of the World Glaucoma Association (WGA) and the World Glaucoma Patient Association (WGPA), World Glaucoma Week began seven years ago as a means of increasing global awareness of this ‘silent thief of sight’. Such increased sensitization towards glaucoma is achieved by the hosting and organisation of programmes with and for key stakeholders including, but not limited to, glaucoma patients, governments, hospitals, universities, donor agencies and eye care specialists.

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, which carries 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 established that there are 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, it stands to reason that the disease results in the progressive loss of side vision, referred to as peripheral vision. If left untreated, central vision loss can develop, followed by eventual blindness.

Given the fact that glaucoma can occur gradually over time without being detected, it is important that persons police their health via regular or annual vision checks. It is important to note that in many instances glaucoma symptoms only manifest when the disease is far advanced. Once vision is lost to glaucoma it cannot be reversed. 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 translates in the statistic 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 uncommon 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 origin appear to be more predisposed 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 a fact that persons with diabetes are at increased likelihood of developing glaucoma.

The most recent data on glaucoma in St. Kitts and Nevis reflects the following, from our institution-based (hospital) services:
 No. of Registered Cases of Glaucoma = 1, 334

 No. of Old Clients Accessing Glaucoma Care in 2016 = 221

 No. of New Cases of Glaucoma 132

 No. of Contacts with Clients (Glaucoma) = 929

 No. of Suspect Cases of Glaucoma = 84

 No. of Surgical Interventions for Glaucoma = 02 (Trabeculectomies)

 No. of Visits in 2016 of patients with Glaucoma = 1055

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:

Tuesday, March 14th – Glaucoma Video and Lecture
Presentation at the Eye Clinic at JNF General Hospital
WedSt. Kitts and Nevis joins the global community in observing World Glaucoma Week from March 12-18, 2017. The theme
for this year’s celebration is “B.I.G. – Beat Invisible Glaucoma”.

The brainchild of the World Glaucoma Association (WGA) and the World Glaucoma Patient Association (WGPA), World Glaucoma Week began seven years ago as a means of increasing global awareness of this ‘silent thief of sight’. Such increased sensitization towards glaucoma is achieved by the hosting and organisation of programmes with and for key stakeholders including, but not limited to, glaucoma patients, governments, hospitals, universities, donor agencies and eye care specialists.

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, which carries 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 established that there are 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, it stands to reason that the disease results in the progressive loss of side vision, referred to as peripheral vision. If left untreated, central vision loss can develop, followed by eventual blindness.

Given the fact that glaucoma can occur gradually over time without being detected, it is important that persons police their health via regular or annual vision checks. It is important to note that in many instances glaucoma symptoms only manifest when the disease is far advanced. Once vision is lost to glaucoma it cannot be reversed. 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 translates in the statistic 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 uncommon 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 origin appear to be more predisposed 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 a fact that persons with diabetes are at increased likelihood of developing glaucoma.

The most recent data on glaucoma in St. Kitts and Nevis reflects the following, from our institution-based (hospital) services:
 No. of Registered Cases of Glaucoma = 1, 334

 No. of Old Clients Accessing Glaucoma Care in 2016 =
221

 No. of New Cases of Glaucoma = 132

 No. of Contacts with Clients (Glaucoma) = 929

 No. of Suspect Cases of Glaucoma = 84

 No. of Surgical Interventions for Glaucoma = 02
(Trabeculectomies)

 No. of Visits in 2016 of patients with Glaucoma = 1055

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:

Tuesday, March 14th – Glaucoma Video and Lecture Presentation at the Eye Clinic at JNF General Hospital

Wednesday, March 15th – (a) Lecture discussion at 9:00 a.m.
by Ms Juletta Fyfield on “Living with Glaucoma”; and (b) Visit to the Cardin Home

Thursday, March 16th – Glaucoma Awareness Walk from Best Buy Supermarket, through the Roundabout at Camps, and east along the FT Williams Highway towards the RL Bradshaw International Airport, starting at 4:30 p.m.

Friday, March 17th – Glaucoma Awareness T-shirt Day with Clinic as per Established Schedule

As was done with last year’s celebration of World Glaucoma Week, the Federal Ministries of Health encourage all citizens and residents of St. Kitts and Nevis to support the various educational and promotional activities being staged for World Glaucoma Week by the staff of the Eye Clinic at the JN France General Hospital. We must all be reminded of the need to preserve our vision, to police our health, and not take our eyesight for granted. In this way, we would be a healthier Nation with our people living more industrious, productive and independent lives for longer periods of time. The Ministries also 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 2017 officially open.

Thank you for your attention.

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