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Dubai Health Authority (DHA) held a smart clinic to discuss several aspects of eye care to mark World Glaucoma Week 2017.

Dr Abdulla Al Naqi, Head of Ophthalmology at Dubai Hospital, highlighted the top causes of blindness in the UAE and important steps to prevent reversible and irreversible blindness.

Dr Naqi said: “Diabetes is the number one cause of irreversible blindness in  the UAE followed by glaucoma, which is  caused due to increased pressure in the eye; whereas cataract is the major cause of reversible blindness in the UAE and worldwide.

“Approximately 20 per cent of the  UAE population has diabetes, that’s one in five people. The prevalence of this disease is high and so are the complications. Diabetic eye disease comprises of a group of eye conditions that affect people with diabetes. These conditions include diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema (DME), cataract, and glaucoma. All forms of diabetic eye disease have the potential to cause severe vision loss and blindness. However, blindness due to retinopathy is the  leading cause of blindness in working-age adults.

The biggest challenge in treating this disease is that diabetic retinopathy often goes unnoticed until vision loss occurs. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that diabetics should opt for a comprehensive dilated eye exam every year and even earlier if requested by their retina specialist. 

Dr Naqi said patients with diabetes retinopathy should visit an ophthalmologist and not a general optometrist if they want to treat their diabetes retinopathy accurately. “Nowadays there are many injections that are available to treat the early stages of diabetes retinopathy.”

Dr Naqi emphasised that controlling diabetes is key to preventing or delaying diabetes related complications including diabetes eye diseases. The main reason for the high rate of such complications is that patients do not take care of their sugar early on and/or miss follow-ups with their doctors. Patient education, multidisciplinary treatment, regular screenings, diet and exercise are all important components that are needed to control diabetes and its complications.

“Simple steps such as taking medications as prescribed, staying physically active, and maintaining a healthy diet can prevent or delay vision loss,” said Dr Naqi.

He added that there is a direct link between controlled blood sugar levels and improved patient outcomes.

In terms of glaucoma, Dr Naqi said that reasons for developing the disease are multifactorial and while it cannot be cured, it is treated to ensure patients can retain their eye-sight for as long as possible.

He added that glaucoma usually causes no symptoms early in its course, at which time it can only be diagnosed by regular eye examinations. 

Glaucoma is usually treated with eye drops, although lasers and surgery can also be used. Most cases can be controlled well with these treatments, thereby preventing further loss of vision.