Ophthalmology Chair Publishes Landmark Epidemiology Papers from West Africa

UNC Eye Kittner Family Distinguished Professor and Chair Donald L. Budenz, MD, MPH and international collaborators have published a pair of landmark papers describing the prevalence of blindness, visual impairment, and glaucoma in urban West Africa.

Ophthalmology Chair Publishes Landmark Epidemiology Papers from West Africa click to enlarge Donald L. Budenz, MD, MPH examines a patient in Ghana, West Africa.

Dr. Budenz and his research group worked for 2-1/2 years in Tema, Ghana, West Africa, where they performed eye examinations with ancillary testing and photography on over 5,600 randomly selected adults age 40 and over. They found the highest prevalence of glaucoma in the world (6.8%) and a startlingly high prevalence of blindness and visual disability in this group.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, but it is preventable if identified early enough. The study will be used to heighten awareness of the glaucoma problem in people of African descent and to direct resources to glaucoma screening and treatment in Africa.

The studies, entitled "Tema Eye Survey" and "Tema Glaucoma Prevalence," were published in the top two clinical ophthalmology journals, Ophthalmology and JAMA Ophthalmology, respectively.

In reference to the Tema Eye Survey, Jeffrey Liebmann, MD, the immediate past president of the American Glaucoma Society said, "Hopefully this study will cause other organizations to focus resources on this difficult problem."

Dr. Budenz recently returned to Chapel Hill from his most recent annual trip to Ghana, where he and his team continued their glaucoma research and performed eye examinations.