One of the leading causes of blindness in the UAE, glaucoma generally presents without noticeable symptoms and develops over many years until it begins to affect a person’s vision. However, patients with diabetic eye disease are at risk of sudden, severe attacks of neovascular glaucoma that require immediate treatment.

Physicians at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi and Imperial College London Diabetes Centre are using World Glaucoma Week in March to warn diabetics in the UAE to be careful of sudden attacks of acute glaucoma, which could threaten their vision.

“Attacks of neovascular glaucoma can be dramatic. The extreme pain in the eye can induce nausea and vomiting, meaning people don’t always immediately associate their symptoms with an eye problem. When they arrive at the hospital, we work to reduce the pressure in their eye before permanent damage is done,” says Dr. Scott Smith, Chair of the Eye Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

Early Detection Key to Preventing Neovascular glaucoma

Neovascular glaucoma is a particularly severe form of acute glaucoma attack. It occurs when poor circulation related to diabetes causes abnormal blood vessels to grow inside the eye. These blood vessels can block the normal outflow channel that helps regulate eye pressure causing it to increase dramatically. When this happens, patients experience clouded vision, eye redness, severe pain and nausea. Neovascular glaucoma can be prevented through early detection and appropriate treatment of diabetic eye disease.

Diabetics Vulnerable to Sudden Neovascular Glaucoma Attack

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“Glaucoma is similar to high blood pressure in terms of the long-term risks. If you don’t manage high blood pressure, it can lead to a heart attack or stroke. In a similar vein, if a person has diabetic eye disease, without careful screening and management, they are at risk of a sudden and extremely painful attack of neovascular glaucoma,” says Dr. Smith.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi and Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC), both part of Mubadala’s network of world-class healthcare providers, collaborate to provide a full range of screening and treatment services to patients with diabetic eye disease.

Quick, painless and non-invasive procedure

“Diabetes can affect the eyes and vision through a number of different mechanisms, and neovascular glaucoma is one such example. Screening patients for diabetic eye disease is a quick, painless and non-invasive procedure involving retinal photography, and a general eye exam when required. If we see changes that could be problematic, we can use medication or laser to treat complications in their early stages,” says Dr. Imran Ansari, Consultant Ophthalmologist at Imperial College London Diabetes Centre.

Attacks of neovascular glaucoma can be dramatic. The extreme pain in the eye can induce nausea and vomiting, meaning people don’t always immediately associate their symptoms with an eye problem.

– Dr. Scott Smith, Chair of the Eye Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi

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Following an attack of neovascular glaucoma, patients usually require surgery to lower the eye pressure. The complex surgery can require a combination of vitrectomy surgery to treat abnormal blood vessels and the implantation of a stent to help create a new route for fluid drainage from within the eye.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Eye Institute offers state-of-the-art medical and surgical treatments to help treat diabetic eye disease, working with Imperial College London Diabetes Centre to offer a holistic approach to the treatment of diabetes and related complications.