17 November 2014 (Dubai, United Arab Emirates): Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai, supported by the Emirates Medical Association Ophthalmic Society, has organized a Glaucoma Symposium for specialists from across the UAE to brief them on the latest developments in the diagnosis and treatment of the eye disease. Glaucoma generally affects older people but uncontrolled diabetes is also a major risk factor, making Glaucoma a health issue even for the relatively young population of the UAE.
The World Health Authority estimates that Glaucoma affects around 60 million people globally. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide and the number one cause of irreversible blindness. There is no cure, however, the disease is treatable and blindness can be prevented through early diagnosis, highlighting the importance of screening.
At the Glaucoma Symposium, expert speakers from four leading eye hospitals and clinics in Abu Dhabi and Dubai took the group of UAE ophthalmologists through the various forms of the disease and the latest in medications and surgical techniques, during the half-day session at the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel in Dubai on Friday 7th November. The symposium attracted more than 100 delegates to the CME (Continuing Medical Education) accredited event.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that cause progressive damage of the optic nerve. If left untreated, most types of glaucoma result (without warning or obvious symptoms to the patient) in increasing visual damage and may lead to blindness. Once this has happened, the visual damage is permanent, which is why glaucoma is described as the “silent blinding disease” or the “sneak thief of sight”.
According to the World Health Organization, the number of people estimated to be blind as a result of primary glaucoma is 4.5 million, accounting for slightly more than 12 per cent of all global blindness. The incidence of some types of Glaucoma rises with age and its progression is more frequent in people of African origin. Although children and young adults can be affected by Glaucoma, high risk groups include older people (with an increasing risk over 40 years of age), uncontrolled diabetics and those with a family history of Glaucoma.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Glaucoma Symposium, where he was a principal speaker, Dr Mohammed Sohaib Mustafa, Consultant Glaucoma Surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai, commented: “Glaucoma has no symptoms in its early stages and up to 40 per cent loss of sight can occur before any problem is noticed by the sufferer. This is why we wanted to bring together eye care professionals in the UAE for this Glaucoma Symposium. We are advising the community in Dubai – and especially people with diabetes and anyone over the age of 40 – to undertake regular screening every year. It really could save your eyesight. We have a relatively young population in the UAE but with a high incidence of diabetes and so, as the population ages, there is the risk of an increase of Glaucoma.”
Glaucoma is treated with eye drops or surgery (conventional or laser) which can halt or slow-down the disease and further vision loss. Research aims to uncover the mechanisms for the improper levels of intra-ocular pressure, nerve damage and the role of genes. Early detection is essential to limiting visual impairment and preventing the progression towards severe visual handicap or blindness. Screening for Glaucoma involves a mandatory eye pressure check, evaluation of the optic nerve at the back of the eye by a specialist doctor and visualfields test if any changes are seen at the previous exams. All tests are pain free and easy to assess the disease when performed in proper ophthalmic hospitals or clinics. Screening should be done every 12 months.