The fifth Cairo Retina Meeting was held in collaboration with the American Society of Retina Specialists and was joined by the Arab-African Society of Retina Specialists. It discussed the urgency of raising awareness among Egyptians for early checkups among diabetics to limit sight complications that affect 14 percent of Egyptians, and tackled the latest updates in treating this along with other eye problems.
Diabetes has been dubbed a silent killer, crawling into various organs of the body and crippling their functions.
In Egypt, diabetes tops many health problems and diseases that people suffer from, with at least 7.3 million patients according to the statistics of the Ministry of Health.
The problem with diabetes is mainly in its complications, which are topped by eye sight problems, especially diabetic retinopathy (DR).
Dr Ashraf Shaarawi, professor of ophthalmology at Alexandria University, stressed that in Egypt people seldom undergo medical checkups, which is why many do not even know they are diabetic until they start having symptoms of DR, which are basically a feeling of blurred vision. Only at this point do they have their eyes checked and discover the problem of diabetes.
Dr Shaarawi added that it is very important that a national awareness campaign is launched to spread the word among diabetics to check their eyes annually, and once every three months if an abnormality is detected.
Along with live surgeries and intensive sessions, the forum witnessed a display of the experiences of both Japan and England in regards to eye-screening systems and new treatments, which subsequently were compared to those of Egypt.
The Japanese experience was highlighted in terms of self-monitoring and care of diabetics. "In Japan a person undergoes checkups every three months according to a national plan, to make sure his eye sight is not affected," said Dr Yusuke Oshima, professor of ophthalmology at Osaka University.
Dr Oshima said the latest breakthroughs introduced in Egypt in treating DR conform to the latest in Japan.
When asked about the screening system in England, Dr Malhar Soni, retinal and ophthalmology consultant from the United Kingdom, said that over there these checkups are taken very seriously, and that even family doctors are provided with advanced cameras and gadgets that take snaps of the eye every two years and refer the patient to specialists in case of abnormalities.
One of the main highlights of the discussion was the introduction of a new treatment for DR. "Compared with conventional laser treatment, the new ranibizumab eye injections yield better results, not only stopping deterioration of the eye as a result of DR, but also improving the eye sight itself," said Dr Ihab El-Rayes of the Institute of Ophthalmology.
Dr El-Rayes also highlighted the introduction of extra fine and minute surgical instruments and the experimental visual device of 'bionic eye' which restores vision for those with partial or total blindness.
When asked about the cost of the injections treatment and whether it is affordable for Egyptians, Dr Saharawi told Ahram Online that he acknowledged the hefty bill of the treatment - a single injection costs almost LE5000 - but added that medical insurance covers part of the cost, stressing that the high percentage of people suffering from the problem makes it a national priority. Fifteen years ago these options were unimaginable, now they exist, it is an opportunity to be seized, he concluded.
The discussion then tackled another main eye problem, which is retinal detachment. Dr Oshima explained that the symptoms of this problem are the appearance of a black curtain in vision, and that the direct cause is an eye injury or severe short sight. The introduction of minute tools to treat this problem and regain vision with faster recovery and less surgery complications was the final highlight of the discussions.