HEADLINES

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

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Delivered by Wendy C. Phipps
Minister of State with Responsibility for Health, Social
Services, Community Development & Gender Affairs
Monday, March 12, 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
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
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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 predisposed
to having glaucoma than any other ethnic group.
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 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:
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Sunday, March 11
th – 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 15
th – 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 16
th – 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
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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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