According to an ophthalmology specialist at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common eye diseases in Qatar, accounting for around 25 percent of the total number of patients treated by HMC’s ophthalmology departments.
“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 characterized 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 organizes 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.
“It is recommended that a child is screened for vision problems at birth, at the age of six months, at age three years, in pre-school, and again every following year. We dedicate a lot of time to going into schools to talk to students, as well as their teachers and school administrators, about the role of vision screening and eye examinations in preventing eye diseases. We also use these sessions to talk to young people about how to prevent and treat eye injuries,” said Dr. Zeedan.
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.
Dr. Faisal Naqadan, a Consultant with HMC’s Ophthalmology Department, says one of the biggest health issues associated with smart devices is vision related and he says it is important to raise awareness of this among both children and their parents. He recommends parents restrict their child’s entertainment-related screen time to two hours or less a day. He said no screen time is recommended for children younger than age two and noted that focusing on things too close to the eyes for a prolonged period puts excessive strain on the eyes.
Dr. Naqadan said raising awareness of the importance of preventative eye care is particularly important at this time of year. He says eye injuries from campfires are not uncommon and most are preventable.
“Approximately 80 percent of all vision impairment globally is avoidable with the cause being either preventable or curable with treatment. Vision and eye health is a critical part of learning and development for both adults and children and eye exams should be part of everyone’s general health maintenance. Your vision should be checked regularly to ensure that you are able to see as well as possible and comprehensive eye screenings can identify signs of eye disease or conditions that can affect not only your vision but your overall health,” said Dr. Naqadan.
Dr. Naqadan said vision screenings and comprehensive eye examinations are an essential part of good eye health. He stressed the importance of regular screenings for those with existing medical conditions or a family history of vision problems.
“If you have diabetes or any other chronic health condition, it is especially important to have regular eye exams as these diseases can increase your risk of eye conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts,” added Dr. Naqadan.
Anyone wanting to schedule an eye examination should visit their primary healthcare doctor and request a referral to HMC’s Ophthalmology Department.