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World Glaucoma Week and importance of regular eye checkups in the UAE
Posted on Mar 16, 2017 by Jessica Lindeman
This article looks at how World Glaucoma Week highlights the importance of regular eye checkups in the UAE, and further provides an overview on how insurance can help cover the cost of eye checkups.
World Glaucoma Week (12 - 18 March) has once again dawned upon us, following 8 successful years of promoting greater awareness of glaucoma, the second leading cause of blindness worldwide.
Glaucoma is a debilitating eye disease that causes irreversible damage to the optic nerve, and is often asymptomatic during the early stages of the disease, which is why so many people have glaucoma without knowing it, so much so that an estimated 76 million people worldwide are due to have glaucoma by 2020.
By generating greater awareness of glaucoma, World Glaucoma Week also brings to attention the importance of having regular eye checks for the early detection of a range of asymptomatic eye diseases, especially when considering that 75% of blindness is preventable.
What exactly is World Glaucoma Week?
As a combined initiative between the World Glaucoma Association and the World Glaucoma Patient Association, World Glaucoma Week focuses on generating additional awareness of glaucoma mediated blindness by promoting regular, comprehensive eye checkups that go beyond simply detecting vision impairment (e.g. myopia) to include the examination of the optic nerves.
An astonishing 90% of glaucoma cases remain undiagnosed, the main reasons for this being that awareness of this disease and its implications remain low, and there are normally no symptoms of the condition until it is too late. As such, glaucoma is often described as “the silent thief of sight”; hence the theme for this year’s World Glaucoma Week: B.I.G - Beat Invisible Glaucoma.
World Glaucoma Week in the UAE
The risk of developing glaucoma increases as we age, and is also higher for those who have a family history of glaucoma. Further, several studies have found that there is a link between diabetes and glaucoma. This may help form part of the explanation behind why there is such a high incidence of glaucoma in the UAE, where over 19% of the population are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
Free eye checkup to commemorate Glaucoma Week
Just ahead of World Glaucoma Week, RAK Hospital in Ras al-Khaimah held a free eye-check camp on March 11 to provide free vision tests, tonometry, eye pressure measurement checks (for detecting glaucoma), and retinal imaging (for detecting eye problems such as diabetic retinopathy) to RAK residents. These complimentary eye checkup services further commemorate UAE’s year of giving, which encourages individuals and business to make a positive difference in people’s lives, and also in the societies they live and operate in.
The free eye checkups are also creating additional awareness on the increasing prevalence of diabetes related eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy among UAE residents, and further illuminating the importance of preventative eye care and early intervention in reversing or slowing down the process of asymptomatic eye diseases.
Highlighting the importance of eye checkups
In light of generating awareness on glaucoma, World Glaucoma Week has helped illuminate the importance of routine eye checkups, especially among those that are at a higher risk of glaucoma. For example, those aged 35 and above are highly advised to get their eyes checked annually. The prevalence of glaucoma increases to about 10% among those aged 70 - 75 years old.
To detect more serious eye conditions such as glaucoma, it is therefore vital to undergo more comprehensive eye examinations that include eye pressure measurement checks. This method is especially important in detecting glaucoma, as those with glaucoma have intense pressure in the eye, which explains why over time the optic nerve becomes increasingly damaged.
In some cases, eye pressure is not the only indicator of glaucoma, as sometimes eye pressure is normal but the optic nerve is damaged. This is why Optical Coherent Tomography (OCT) and Visual Fields Tests are also important in further examining the optic nerve.
Covering the cost of eye checkups
Comprehensive eye exams usually cost more than basic eye tests that only look at your eyesight. If you’re looking to offset the cost of comprehensive eye checkups by an ophthalmologist, it’s important to study your health insurance policy to ascertain whether these tests are included in your policy. This is because many plans will not cover routine eye exams, although some plans do cover this for diagnosing patients who are at a higher risk of eye disease. Moreover, health insurance won’t cover the cost of eye exams related to refractive error unless you have added vision benefits.
Those that are in search of coverage for comprehensive eye checks may therefore benefit from adding vision insurance to their plan, which will usually cover a routine eye check. Please note that some vision plans will only cover basic tests, so be sure to double check exactly what’s included in the policy before securing it.
Further, the distinction between health insurance and vision insurance can get a bit confusing, especially when the actual treatment of medical eye conditions such as glaucoma falls under the responsibility of health insurance, and not vision insurance. This is why it often pays to talk to an experienced broker like UAE Medical Insurance for expert advice that’s specific to exactly what it is that you are looking for.