According to Dr Osman Mohammed, Senior Consultant Ophthalmologist at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), Diabetic retinopathy – damage to the retina caused by complications of diabetes which can lead to blindness, can be prevented through regular eye checkups and management of blood sugar levels.

Worldwide diabetic retinopathy rates have significantly increased during the past few years and the European Society of Retina Specialists (EURETINA) Congress, held in Hamburg, Germany in late 2013, has called for diabetic retinopathy to be classified as an epidemic.

Diabetic retinopathy is caused by complications of diabetes and can lead to blindness. Dr Mohammed said:

Diabetes is a major concern to the population here in Qatar, affecting about 17% of the population. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common chronic complication of diabetes, affecting about 40 percent of diabetic patients here in Qatar.’

He explained that diabetic retinopathy usually results from long-term uncontrolled blood sugar levels in diabetic patients. He added:

The longer a patient has diabetes, the higher the chance he or she will be affected by diabetic retinopathy.’

‘The EURETINA recommends patients have eye checkups early on, when they are first diagnosed with diabetes, to check for any damage in the retina, according to which regular follow ups should be scheduled and, if applicable, a suitable treatment offered to the patient.’

HMC’s national Diabetes Centers, located on the second floor of the outpatient department at Hamad General Hospital and in Al Wakra Hospital, are providing Qatar’s diabetic population with improved patient care and access to specialised services offered through a multi-disciplinary approach. The ‘one stop shop’ offers all specialties and services, from initial screening through to treatment, including ophthalmology services.

Dr Mohammed said:

From my experience of twenty years treating diabetic retinopathy patients, I can attest that prevention through maintaining controlled blood sugar levels is the best option for diabetes patients. Although treatment is available, for some cases the damage can be irreversible and the patient’s vision often can’t be restored 100%.’

According to Dr Mohammed, while HMC offers a number of treatments for retina damage and dysfunction, including laser therapy, injections, implants and surgery, laser therapy remains the most common treatment option for preventing severe vision loss for diabetic retinopathy patients.

Dr Mohammed added:

Depending on the situation of the patient, the doctor will choose the best line of therapy. Laser therapy is often effective but it does not retrieve the visual capabilities of the patient to his or her pre-diabetic condition. It is only aimed at preserving the current visual capabilities and preventing more severe visual loss.’

While available treatment options can help improve a patient’s vision, they will not restore it to their pre-diabetic condition. Dr Mohammed stressed the importance of prevention and early detection as the best option for patients.

Individuals with diabetes should know about the risk factors of diabetic retinopathy and try their best to prevent them. These include obesity, uncontrolled blood sugar levels, smoking, high blood pressure and cholesterol.’

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