Thursday June 08, 2023

Glaucoma in children on the rise in Pakistan

April 01, 2023

Rawalpindi:The prevalence of glaucoma, a vision-threatening condition, in children is increasing at a rapid pace in Pakistan, which requires proper intervention.

According to Al-Shifa Trust Eye Hospital, the high prevalence of the disease may be because of high incidence of consanguinity or family marriages in Pakistan. Timely medication and surgical treatment can help control this disease with a good visual outcome and can save many children from life-long visual disability or blindness.

Professor Dr. Sumaira Altaf, Head of the Paediatric Department at Al-Shifa Trust said glaucoma in children has become a growing cause of concern worldwide and in Pakistan as millions of children are suffering from it.

Treatment of glaucoma in children needs specialized medical and surgical care and frequent follow-ups hence parents of children suffering from childhood glaucoma have to face psychological and financial stress, she said. She added that Al-Shifa Trust Eye Hospital provides free of cost medical and surgical treatment to 80 per cent of patients who are treated by experienced and skilled Paediatric Ophthalmologists.

On average 22 to 25 paediatric eye surgeries are performed daily including various types of surgeries for glaucoma, she informed. The successful treatment of these patients has resulted in a high number of referrals to the Trust’s hospital from all over the country. A large number of cases of paediatric glaucoma have secondary causes either due to trauma, previous eye surgery, associated eye anomalies or injudicious use of steroids, she said.

Dr Sumaira highlighted that the vision of many unfortunate children has been compromised because of the careless use of over-the-counter steroid eye drops. Moreover, harmful medicines are frequently prescribed by salesmen at pharmacies, relatives, quacks, and sometimes by general practitioners, who are ignorant that these medicines lead to complications and irreversible blindness, she said.

She added that the pharmaceutical companies should also mention the side effects of these medicines on their packaging as knowledge regarding paediatric glaucoma is scarce. She said examination at birth by an ophthalmologist is recommended for every child to rule out any eye abnormalities. An annual eye examination by an ophthalmologist is recommended to detect early signs of glaucoma or other ocular problems and intervene before it is too late.

She said the Al-Shifa Department of Paediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus Rawalpindi has fully equipped OPD clinics, clinics for paediatric vision and refraction as well as all the diagnostic tests required for children. The competent team of ophthalmologists caters to an OPD of 250 to 300 children. Our Paediatric Ophthalmology Department is playing a key role in our fight against childhood blindness, she said.