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Wed 7 Nov 2007 12:10 PM

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Eye experts urge regular screening

Common eye problems can be prevented with regular screening, preferably from a young age, according to two international experts in the field of ophthalmology.

Common eye problems can be prevented with regular screening, preferably from a young age, according to two international experts in the field of ophthalmology. Professors Tony Moore and Roger Hitchings, based in Moorfields London, were speaking at a gathering of over 130 private practitioners hosted by Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai (MEHD).

Professor Moore was particularly adamant about children being tested. "We at Moorfields tell governments that although fewer children than adults are blind, children will have to live many more years with blindness than, for instance, an older person who develops complications from glaucoma," he said. "If children are screened early, the problems they present stand a better chance of being treated."

Professor Hitchings, who recently developed a 5-year research strategy for the Royal College of Opthamologists, stated that public education on eye health is vital. "The two biggest problems in the UAE are diabetic retinopathy and congenital eye disease," he said. "Diabetic eye disease can be prevented if high-risk individuals had themselves screened periodically. Congenital eye disease can also be treated early through screening, and people can also volunteer to be tested for congenital eye diseases prior to marriage."

Professor Hitchings is Moorfields' research and development director, with a speciality in glaucoma; Professor Moore's speciality is genetic eye disease, and he has been instrumental in developing breakthrough gene therapy programmes, particularly for childhood retinal diseases. The UAE has higher-than-average rates of diabetic eye disease, which the Ministry of Health has addressed with the announcement that all primary care trusts will offer diabetics regular, free retinal exams; and congenital eye disease, ranging from glaucoma to rarer pathologies. Both experts advised that the public should be educated about options for screening both.

All delegates gained Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits for their attendance at the seminar.

To mark World Sight Day on October 11, MEHD issued a reminder that adults should have their eyes checked every two years, and that children should be tested at the age of three. Under the theme of ‘Vision for Children', MEHD highlighted the fact that every five seconds one person in the world goes blind, and a child becomes blind every minute.

Approximately 1.4 million children globally are blind, up to 50% from avoidable causes. Dr Chris Canning, MEHD's CEO and medical director, recommends regular eye checks every two years to detect treatable problems such as glaucoma before they reach a critical stage.

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