Eye issues affecting Middle East residents include Keratoconus, Trachoma as well as dry, red and itchy eyes due to region’s harsh climate
Amid the latest optical and ophthalmic technologies and eyewear fashion that were showcased at Vision-X Dubai this week, eye problems and diseases prevalent in the Middle East were on the event’s conference agenda to create awareness among health practitioners and the general public. From diseases such as Keratoconus and Trachoma to severely dry, red and itchy eyes, optical and ophthalmic professionals discussed eye problems that are most commonly experienced by many Middle East residents. Experts also discussed issues such as the unique eye care needs of children with Down’s Syndrome and the latest advancements in contact lenses and other medical devices.
Drawing attention to eye diseases in the Middle East
Among the conference speakers was Dr Yazan Gammoh, head of the optometry department at the American University of Science & Technology in Lebanon, who discussed a range of eye problems experienced by Middle East residents. “I train optometrists in the field and I have noticed that they don’t have a good awareness of ophthalmologic diseases that are prevalent in this region. This is because they study abroad and bring this knowledge with them but they are still thinking of what they did in the UK, Europe or the US. We are trying to enlighten optometrists and professionals in the industry about the problems we see here such as dry eyes, red eyes, headaches, Keratoconus and Trachoma.”
Gammoh also dispelled the myth that headaches are often related to eye problems and shared his knowledge on how to differentiate between various types of headaches. “Every day at least one or two patients will go to an optometrist with a headache thinking it’s due to a refractive vision problem but often headaches do not have an ocular basis and it is usually related to a systemic, disease or drug related issue. These days we also want to avoid expensive tests as it causes a strain on the healthcare system and raises insurance policy premiums.” According to Gammoh, dry eyes and red eyes caused by contact lenses, the lack of blinking and the harsh and dry climate are some of the problems common to the Middle East. Keratoconus and Trachoma are two serious diseases that affect the region. Keratoconus causes the cornea to become cone shaped, leading to cell degeneration and eyesight problems while Trachoma is caused by a microorganism that spreads through contact with eye discharge from the infected person and through transmission by eye-seeking flies. Trachoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in some MENA countries said Gammoh.
Tailoring optometry to the needs of children with Down’s Syndrome
Dr Mohammad Albagdady, an optometrist with a PhD in visual development and visual defects in children with Down’s Syndrome, discussed the importance of tailoring eye test for these patients as their visual characteristics are unique. “When we are testing people, especially children, we have specific guidelines regarding the outcome of the test as well as the methods of the testing, however children with Down’s Syndrome are unique in that they have different visual characteristics which requires us to adjust these guidelines according to their visual needs.” Albagdady said professionals and parents in the region needed to become more aware of Down’s Syndrome children’s eye care needs. “People may think that a child with Down’s Syndrome has severe learning problems when in fact he or she may have eyesight problems. About 80% of children with the condition have eyesight problems so we need to create more awareness among parents and practitioners.”
New developments in contact lenses
Dr Bassima Al Delaigan, chief of the optometry department in Bin Rushd Ophthalmic Centre in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, shared the latest developments and insights in the field of contact lenses, especially soft contact lenses. Delaigan said the trend was towards daily disposable contact lenses, which are easier to take care of and don’t require cleaning. In addition, new materials in contact lenses mean that redness and dryness are greatly reduced as the lenses are more breathable, allowing oxygen to reach the eye. “You have to be very careful when using contact lenses because they’re in your eye and can cause problems if not properly used. Some people are very lazy and do not clean the contact lenses often enough or change the solution, which causes complication like eye infections, redness and corneal ulcers.”
The latest scientific findings and technological developments were discussed at the Vision-X Dubai 2013 Optometry Conference, which focused on optometric education and best practices. This year, Vision Opticare presented two days of intensive seminar talks with renowned speakers who will explore a wide range of topics from effective key players in optometric practices to Myopia in the Middle East. Together with Knowledge Partner Eye Zone Magazine, a comprehensive educational programme was also offered for ophthalmologists, optometrists and mid-level eye care providers from the Middle East to share experiences, exchange knowledge and create networking opportunities. In addition, a paper presentation, sponsored by Mitsui Chemicals, focused on the brand’s new High Index Lens material and their complete range of lenses materials.
Held at Dubai World Trade Centre from 9 – 11 April 2013, the exhibition offers a networking opportunity for industry professionals and it is a platform for exhibitors to showcase the latest medical and technical equipment and machinery as well as new innovations and developments in fashion eyewear and accessories.