This is World Glaucoma Week
World Glaucoma Week is a global initiative of the World Glaucoma Association (WGA) in order to raise awareness on glaucoma. Through a series of engaging worldwide activities patients, eye-care providers, health officials and the general public are invited to contribute to sight preservation. The goal is to alert everyone to have regular eye (and optic nerve) checks in order to detect glaucoma as early as possible.
Each year, the World Glaucoma Week adopts a common theme, which is adapted to local conditions, and yet unifies our efforts. To be effective, community awareness projects need to be relevant for the general population. That means they need to be based locally and thus, rely on individuals in each location to be actively involved, adopting the unifying global message into local culture.
To eliminate glaucoma blindness, there are several issues that need to be addressed. Glaucoma usually gives no warning until it is advanced, but the damage it causes to vision is ongoing and could become irreversible. Fortunately, for many patients treatment can halt the damage. That means the earlier the diagnosis, the more vision there is to save and the less likely the person is to become blind. Therefore, the World Glaucoma Week aims at alerting members of the broader community to the need for regular simple eye checks, which allow earlier detection and, hence, saved sight.
Newsletters and social media posts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) can inspire you and give you some ideas to arrange a project in your own area or neighborhood. This will create a network in which we are all able to motivate and guide one another as we share our goals and strategies. By sharing successes, as well as less successful ventures, we are able to learn from one another and be even more effective in reaching our goal; the elimination of glaucoma blindness.
For further details about who is at risk, what are the symptoms, and how glaucoma can be treated, both patients and the general public may visit glaucomapatients.org.
2020 marked a decade of raising awareness on glaucoma through the World Glaucoma Week campaign. What are the key lessons of the last ten years?
Co-Chair World Glaucoma Week Committee
President World Glaucoma Association
I.G. Public awareness programs need to be on message and patiently repeated over and over again. It’s like water dripping onto a rock; it takes many drops to see an indent.
F.L. In the last ten years we have also seen many changes in the association, relating to the campaigns and education opportunities both for eye-care providers and patients. The World Glaucoma Association developed a workplace for patients and the general population, and the education Committee of WGA has developed a series of courses for ophthalmologists and other eye-care providers that are free of charge and provided in many languages. Of course, the rise of social media has been a powerful tool to get people around the world involved, and has played a key part in our mission towards raising awareness. Whether successful or unsuccessful, stories promoted through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram can have a big impact on general awareness about glaucoma prevention and treatment.
When it comes to glaucoma, the ‘sneak thief of sight’, lack of awareness may cause severe issues, that could even lead to permanent vision loss. And as glaucoma isn’t always under the radar of health officials worldwide, the World Glaucoma Week activities are crucial. How can people contribute?
I.G. By organizing imaginative, publicity-attractive awareness projects locally, such as pamphlets and posters, screening stations and talks; all have their value. As do marches with banners and illuminating buildings in green, glaucoma’s logo color, or green lapel ribbons.
F.L. The overarching goal of this campaign is for everyone to know about the disease called ‘glaucoma’ and encourage the general public to go and get tested. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness, but with early treatment, the damage may get limited and sight may be saved. By promoting regular testing, we also want glaucoma patients to get their relatives involved, as the chances of them getting glaucoma are 10 times higher than someone with no glaucoma history in their close family environment. Therefore, the World Glaucoma Week is a great opportunity to raise awareness through word of mouth.
How do you foresee the prevention and treatment of glaucoma in the next decade, and what does this mean for the World Glaucoma Week?
I.G. Same as in the last decade, we will be seeing a lot of advances in glaucoma. Genetics knowledge will contribute to earlier glaucoma detection, and therefore damage prevention may also start earlier. We might also see monitors developed through AI, which will help ophthalmologists in the follow-up of patients, and also see drugs administered through delivery devices.
F.L. Artificial intelligence driven interpretations of images of a person’s optic nerve promises to revolutionize early detection on a large scale. This is most exciting, allowing as it will more accurate diagnosis and earlier onset of effective treatment.