Abu Dhabi: Hospital to study eye disease detected among teens that can lead to blindness

Exact cause of keratoconus that explains why the cornea’s structure weakens and changes shape is still unknown


Ashwani Kumar

Published: Wed 1 Mar 2023, 8:06 PM

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Eye Institute and Research Department will be conducting a research study to measure the prevalence of keratoconus in the UAE to help understand and treat the disease more effectively.

The hospital, a Mubadala Health partner, is raising awareness around keratoconus – a progressive and degenerative corneal eye disease that, if left untreated, can result in blindness. In the UAE, rates of keratoconus are higher than in other parts of the world.

Keratoconus is usually detected in the teenage years or 20s but can also start in childhood. Its exact cause is unknown, and there are no eye diseases or injuries that explain why the cornea’s structure weakens and changes shape. This makes the role of preventative screening and timely detection even more critical so accurate treatment is provided to manage the extent of distortion.

Dr David Gritz, staff physician, cornea and refractive disorders, Eye Institute, CCAD, noted the hospital seeks to promote advanced research to address complex medical needs of the community.

“Our aim is to study the prevalence and incidence of the disease in the local population, which will enable us in our efforts with the governing authorities to develop a comprehensive national screening programme, and further serve our community.”

Keratoconus occurs when the cornea, the transparent outer lens of the eye, which normally has a dome shape with a ball-like appearance, is unable to maintain its round shape and extends outward in the form of a cone. While the exact cause is largely unknown, some research studies suggest that keratoconus runs in families and occurs more often in people with specific medical conditions.

What are the symptoms of keratoconus?

The vision in one or both eyes gradually gets worse, usually in late adolescence. The person may have double vision when looking with just one eye, even with glasses on. Bright lights look like they have halos around them. Someone with keratoconus will notice that his or her vision slowly becomes distorted. The change can end at any time, or it can continue for several years. In most people who have keratoconus, both eyes are eventually affected.

“Permanent vision loss from keratoconus is preventable through early detection and treatment, as we have innovative cutting-edge technologies available today. Therefore, we encourage people to take the preventive route and opt for screening tests,” Dr Gritz added.

The hospital is encouraging individuals between the ages of 18 and 30 years to undergo examination and consider participation in the research study.


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