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Get regular eye exams

Carlos Atwell

Get regular eye exams

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IT IS IMPORTANT for Barbadians to get regular eye examinations to safeguard against glaucoma.
This is because Barbadians appear to be highly susceptible to the debilitating eye disease.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Joy St John made these comments, speaking at the third annual Glaucoma Week church service yesterday in St Paul’s Anglican Church.
She said a worrying factor was that Barbados had a higher glaucoma prevalence than some developed countries.
“The Barbados Eye Studies, conducted in the 1980s to 1990s to study open angle glaucoma, are well known internationally, and form the largest epidemiological study of primary open angle glaucoma in a population of West African descent,” she noted.
“These studies identified a staggeringly high prevalence and incidence of glaucoma in Barbados, reported at 7.1 per cent in the population over age 40.  In North America and Europe, the prevalence in the population over age 40 is about two per cent.  It is also important to note that the prevalence of glaucoma increases with age.  In Barbados, one in 11 persons over the age of 50 was found to have glaucoma; over age 70, the rate was one in six people, she pointed out.
St John said glaucoma was the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide with open angle glaucoma accounting for 21 per cent of all new cases of blindness while diabetic retinopathy accounted for only 8.4 per cent.
“It is well known that the persons who know they have glaucoma are only 50 per cent of those actually affected by the disease in a population [and] this was confirmed by the Barbados Eye Studies,” she said.
However, St John said there was no reason for Barbadians to remain unaware they had the disease as there were adequate medical professionals qualified to screen them.
“It is my view that there is an adequate supply of ophthalmologists in Barbados to meet the demands of the population for appropriate screening and treatment, be it for cataract treatment, refractive errors or glaucoma. [Also] officers in my Ministry are currently preparing proposals to tackle the problem of preventable blindness in Barbados and I am awaiting those proposals,” she said.