x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Diabetics told to go for regular tests or risk blindness

World Ophthalmology Congress attracted 12,000 delegates from all over the world.

Dr Saleh Saif Al Mosabi said new guidelines and standards of treatments discussed at the World Ophthalmology Congress would be “immediately applicable” to patients.
Dr Saleh Saif Al Mosabi said new guidelines and standards of treatments discussed at the World Ophthalmology Congress would be “immediately applicable” to patients.

ABU DHABI // Diabetes sufferers risk losing their sight if they are not tested regularly, doctors say.

The treatment of diabetic retinopathy was one of the key topics discussed at the five-day World Ophthalmology Congress (WOC) at the Abu Dhabi Exhibition Centre, which ended yesterday.

The condition, which can go undetected for years without patients experiencing symptoms, occurs when small blood vessels in the retina become swollen. This causes blood to leak and can lead to blindness.

Dr Manal Taryam, vice president of the WOC and a consultant ophthalmologist at Dubai Health Authority, said: "Diabetes is one of the diseases that causes blindness, but screenings have been designed to diagnose it in the early stages."

One in four Emiratis shows diabetes symptoms. "Some people can have diabetic retinopathy but not know they have it until it is too late," said Dr Taryam.

Four years ago the UAE ranked second in the world for the condition, but new figures show it has moved to 10th place.

Many ophthalmologists are now advising diabetic practitioners to refer their patients for eye screenings.

Advanced technology has made treatment of the eye disease "simpler and better", said Dr Taryam.

The 12,000 ophthalmologists, who travelled to the 12th biannual WOC from all over the world, also discussed ways to treat glaucoma, which has caused more than seven million people to go blind worldwide.

Dr Saleh Saif Al Mosabi, head of the ophthalmology department at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City in the capital, said 50 per cent of those with glaucoma did not realise they had the disease until it was in its final stage.

This means that an increasing number of people do not seek help until it is too late.

Glaucoma affects one in 200 people under the age of 50 worldwide and is caused by increased fluid pressure in the eye, which gradually damages the optic nerve.

Symptoms occur only when the disease is at an advanced stage, by which time blindness is irreversible.

"Glaucoma could be happening to you and you are not even aware of it," said Dr Al Mosabi.

He added that people did not discover the problem until they started to lose their peripheral vision.

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness after cataracts, but can be treated or its progress delayed if the condition is detected early enough.

A range of new diagnostic technology was presented at the conference, which was organised by the Middle East Africa Council of Ophthalmology and was the largest convention held in Abu Dhabi to date.

Dr Al Mosabi said it had been a "privilege" for the UAE's ophthalmology community to learn from international experts, who passed on vital and up-to-date medical information.

"Everything has been discussed," he added.

Dr Al Mosabi said new guidelines and standards of treatments would be "immediately applicable" to patients.

Mubarak Rashed Al Nuaimi, the international promotions manager of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority who was on the Host City Committee, said a free invitation had been sent to all ophthalmologists to give them access to the exhibitions, "so they can experience what is happening around the world".

Mr Al Nuaimi said the conference proved that Abu Dhabi was capable of hosting high-attendance events of this calibre.

"I am excited and happy that we achieved our target," he said.

molson@thenational.ae