The island’s sole glaucoma specialist is encouraging citizens to be tested for the “silent thief of sight”, also referred to as glaucoma.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY at the free glaucoma screening event held at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital today, Dr Dawn Grosvenor revealed that glaucoma was the number one cause of irreversible blindness in Barbados.
“In North America and Europe the prevalence of glaucoma in the population is about one or two per cent, [but] in Barbados it is seven per cent in the over 40’s and if you look at people over the age of 50, one in 11 people in our population . . . will have glaucoma,” she disclosed.
Commonly seen among adults over the age of 40, Grosvenor emphasized that the symptoms were now evident amongst individuals now entering adulthood.
“In Barbados, we see glaucoma in people even in their 20’s and 30’s, so we really recommend that as long as you are an adult 21 or over you should get an eye test,” she said.
Dr. Grosvenor noted that in the Caribbean, Barbados had the highest risk factors for glaucoma, as it boasted a large population of African descent, an aging population and a history of glaucoma in families.
She said families had been coming to the Lions Eyecare Clinic to get tested during World Glaucoma Week, which ran from March 6 t0 12.
“We had parents coming with children to get tested …people in their 80’s coming with 40-year-old children, so that we were getting both generations at once.
“The challenge that we will face now as a country, is how to do what we do during this week all year round, . . . We now want to get out to the community and capture people who might not have had an eye test but are at risk, so that they can get tested and continue to get tested,” she added.
Highlighting the importance of early screening against glaucoma, Dr Grosvenor said, “Once you lose vision because of nerve damage it can’t come back, so the idea is if we can capture that nerve damage early enough we can stop it where it is so that people can retain their vision for their whole life, that’s the aim of treating glaucoma.
“In this day and age where we have so many therapies . . . there is no reason that anyone in this day and age should go blind with glaucoma in Barbados, but the key to preventing that lies with the individual.
“If you come and have your glaucoma test early, if you are developing glaucoma we can pick that up so early, so that we could prevent you from ever losing your vision. But you have to start coming and getting the test,” Dr Grosvenor insisted.