Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common eye diseases in Qatar, accounting for around 25% of the total number of patients treated by Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC), ophthalmology departments, according to an ophthalmology specialist.
“Diabetic retinopathy affects blood vessels in the light-sensitive tissue called the retina. It is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes and the leading cause of vision impairment and blindness among all adults,” said Dr Deena Zeedan, specialist ophthalmologist at HMC.
Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes and involves changes in retinal blood vessels. In some people with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In other people, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina.
Dr Zeedan said in addition to diabetic retinopathy, the most common vision-threatening conditions treated in Qatar include glaucoma and cataracts. She said cataracts are most common in those aged 60 and above.
“Most cataracts are related to aging. The condition is characterised by a clouding of the lens in the eye. A cataract can occur in either or both eyes. Patients with cataracts will often see halos and have a sensitivity to light. The first symptom of cataracts is often worse night vision,” said Dr Zeedan.
Many patients with cataracts are candidates for a simple procedure that involves removing the clouded lens and replacing it with a clear artificial lens that remains a permanent part of the patient’s eye. Cataract surgery is generally done as a day care procedure, with the patient not requiring an overnight stay in hospital. In 2017, HMC performed about 1,500 cataract surgeries.
According to Dr Zeedan, HMC, in coordination with the Ministry of Education, regularly organises workshops and educational lectures for school children, staff, and administrators on the importance of eye health. She says it is important to raise awareness about the role of early and ongoing vision screening.
Dr Zeedan said young children and their parents may not be aware of reduced visual functioning so routine eye examinations are important for detecting problems that could compromise the child’s development. She said if vision problems are detected during a school screening, the child is referred to HMC for a comprehensive eye examination.
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