World Glaucoma Week: Glaucoma Research in Nigeria

by Dr Farouk Garba, Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Nigeria

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world. Contrary to some conditions like cataract where patients get discharged after a successful surgery and sometimes never seen again, glaucoma is one of the areas of ophthalmology where you treat and follow up patients for life.  I am a senior lecturer and consultant ophthalmologist at Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH) in Nigeria and seeing a chance to help people in this difficult, life-changing journey I decided to contribute.

In my practice we see a number of people who are blind from glaucoma, and young individuals make a good proportion of these affected people.  Accessibility and affordability play an important role in health care. This is more obvious in eye care and even more so in glaucoma. In the quest to provide affordable and accessible quality glaucoma care for people in low and middle income countries (LMICs), my research question was born.

In most LMICs, glaucoma diagnosis and management is done in secondary and tertiary centres where expertise and high-tech equipment are available. This causes a lot difficulties for people in rural areas to access such facilities. My PhD project is looking at the possibility of utilising community health centres in rendering glaucoma care through the use of portable and easy to use devices.

Our work is expected to demonstrate the use of portable devices in the detection of glaucoma, and that these devices could be comfortably used by community health workers to detect glaucoma and refer for further care.  In the long run through earlier detection of this irreversible disease sight loss and blindness can be prevented. The success of this project will hopefully revolutionise glaucoma management in Nigeria and other LMICs, changing the narrative of blindness due to glaucoma.

I strongly think that public education and advocacy is important in glaucoma awareness. We need people also understand how it causes blindness and why early detection is significant in preventing blindness. We need governments and other institutions with an eye health mandate to also see the importance of preventing blindness due to glaucoma as an economic and public health concern.

Consideration should be given to glaucoma patients, especially in LMICs, by subsidising investigations and treatment. More support should be encouraged through research to come up with specific questions faced by eye health care professionals, in order to diagnosis and manage the different stages and types of glaucoma, thereby preventing blindness around the world.

Dr Farouk Garba is a senior lecturer and consultant ophthalmologist at Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), and also a pioneer ICO-World Glaucoma Association Fellow, 2017. He is presently undertaking his PhD at ICEH.