Residents have been urged to schedule regular eye examinations in order to help prevent avoidable blindness.
“Although the number of patients suffering from blindness caused by infections has decreased significantly over the past 20 years, some 285mn patients still suffer from vision impairment worldwide. Out of these patients, 39mn are completely blind,” Hamad Medical Corporation resident ophthalmologist Dr Deena Safwan Zeedan said, ahead of World Sight Day - an annual global awareness event that takes place on the second Thursday of October and is designed to increase awareness about blindness and vision impairment.
“Many people associate vision impairment with old age, but there are over 19mn blind children all over the world, and many of these cases could have been prevented through regular checkups,” Dr Zeedan said.
HMC provides a screening programme for all infants born at the Women’s Hospital and advises follow-up screenings at age six months, age three, during pre-school and a yearly screening once in school.
Dr Zeedan said that awareness is the first step to preventing avoidable vision impairment. “Overall, 80% of all vision impairment is preventable, and our role is to educate people about that. Our department regularly sends teams to schools in order to educate students about eye health.”
According to the ophthalmologist, the most common vision impairment problems in Qatar include glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.
Dr Zeedan said awareness, prevention and regular check-ups are the best options for people with a high risk of vision impairment, such as individuals living with diabetes.
“When it comes to preserving your vision, early detection is the solution. Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common vision impairments worldwide and in the Middle East statistics show that the percentage of patients suffering from diabetic retinopathy is likely to increase from 20% to 25%. This disease can lead to blindness, but it is preventable if diabetic patients follow a healthy lifestyle and control their blood sugar levels,” Dr Zeedan said.
In recent years, HMC has increased access to eye care services across the country. Outpatient and emergency care services are offered at Hamad General Hospital and ophthalmology surgeries are performed at Rumailah Hospital’s inpatient department. General and specialised clinics are also located at Al Khor, Wakrah and The Cuban Hospitals.
“A new ophthalmology clinic was recently opened at Wakrah hospital so that people living in the southern area, including Wakrah, Mesaieed and surrounding communities, have easier and more convenient access to ophthalmology services, rather than having to drive all the way to Doha,” Dr Zeedan said.
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