The Ophthalmologist Society of Ghana (OSG) has raised a health alert about the staggering number of Ghanaians living with diabetes and the associated imminent risk of diabetes-induced blindness.
The concerns were raised at the 27th annual general and scientific meeting of the Ophthalmological Society of Ghana which came off in Kumasi on the theme, “Diabetes and the eye.”
The conference which attracted ophthalmologists from across the country drew special attention to diabetic retinopathy, an eye condition suffered by diabetic patients.
The condition which easily causes blindness in diabetics occurs when high blood sugar levels causes damage to blood vessels in the retina.
According to the maiden national blindness and visual impairment survey, diabetic retinopathy is the third leading cause of blindness in Ghana
Speaking to Ultimate News on the sidelines of the conference, the Director of Eye Care Services at the Ghana Health Service (GHS) Dr James Addi indicated that as many as 27 thousand Ghanaians living with diabetes are bound to go blind if no deliberate national interventions are embarked on with urgency.
He pointed out that, “Of the 28 million Ghanaians, 270 thousand is estimated to have diabetes and 93 thousand have diabetic retinopathy and 27 thousand have vision-threatening retinopathy.
“The situation even gets dire in Ghana as of all the 27 thousand patients with vision threatening diabetic retinopathy, there are only six retinal surgeons in Ghana both in private and public service. The whole country has only two ophthalmic nurses qualified enough to take fundal pictures needed to assess the extent of retinal damage.”
Ultimate News also established that the cost of buying medical equipment to manage this condition is overwhelming for most private clinics leaving intense pressure on the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital and the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospitals.
Addressing the conference, the President of the Ophthalmological Society of Ghana Dr. Seth Lartey underscored the need for a harmonized effort at training more ophthalmologists and embarking on a national diabetic retinopathy screening program to stem the tide.
The conference resolved that Ghana will have to double its efforts if it has to meet the United Nations Sustainable development goals on comprehensive and accessible eye healthcare.
Ghana’s signature to a much closer convention – the VISION 2020 which demands the right of all to sight – also came into sharp focus.
The country is also tied to meeting the Global action plan 2014 to 2019 on universal eye health which has as its vision “a world where no one is needlessly visually impaired.”