Study shows laser treatment could significantly improve treatment for glaucoma in Africa
Results of a trial published in Lancet Global Health this week could pave the way for significant improvements in treatment for glaucoma in Sub-Saharan Afric
This study is the first randomized controlled trial into the use of the laser treatment Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) for patients with advanced glaucoma in Sub-Saharan Africa. It found that SLT, already widely used in high-income countries, successfully reduced eye pressure for significantly more patients in Tanzania in comparison to the standard treatment of timolol eye drops.
Glaucoma is usually caused by fluid building up in the eye, which increases intra-ocular pressure. Prompt and effective treatment is vital to prevent damage to the optic nerve and irreversible sight-loss. The treatment trial, based at KCMC, looked at effectiveness of SLT compared to timolol eye drops, currently the main treatment option in Sub-Saharan Africa. 201 people with moderate or advanced glaucoma were enrolled; half were treated with eye drops (timolol) and half with SLT. For those treated with eye drops, treatment was successful in 31% of eyes after one year. For those with SLT, this rose to 61%.
The trial was led by Dr Heiko Philippin, an ophthalmologist who was based at KCMC from 2009 until 2018.
The study also considered the affordability of SLT, finding that in spite of the initial cost of the laser equipment, at hospitals dealing with high volumes of glaucoma patients the treatment could be offered as inexpensively as for an annual supply of eye drops. Recognizing that costs of maintaining and repairing equipment can be significant, the authors point out that the SLT laser used at KCMC has not required maintenance or repair in its four years of use.
The treatment trial was funded by the Seeing is Believing Innovation Fund and international disability charity CBM (http://www.cbmuk.org.uk/
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