KARACHI - Blindness is on the rise in Pakistan where thousands of people are facing loss of vision annually due to cataract, Glucoma and some other diseases, which can be prevented by avoiding and controlling diabetes, hypertension, quitting smoking and timely treatment, expert ophthalmologists said at an ophthalmology conference.

“As many as 25 percent diabetics lose their vision annually in Pakistan, which is a large number while as many people face loss of vision due to cataract and glaucoma. Fortunately, majority of these conditions can be prevented or treated if people see trained and qualified eye specialists timely,” said Dr Sharif Hashmani, one of the leading ophthalmologists while speaking at the sidelines of 4thPioneering Innovations in Ophthalmology (PIO) here at a local hotel.

Prominent eye specialists from entire Pakistan spoke at the conference, jointly organized by Hashmanis Group of Hospitals and Ophthalmic Society of Pakistan (OSP), and discussed different aspects of innovations in the treatment of eye diseases, use of modern techniques including Optical Coherence Tomography and observed that through latest imaging techniques and machine-assisted technology, complicated surgeries could easily be performed now to save vision of thousands of people in the country.

On the occasion, a gold medal was awarded to eminent ophthalmologist and eye specialist, Dr Niaz Ahmed Brohi for his services in the field of ophthalmology, especially for performing over 9500 corneal transplants while a young doctor from the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) Dr Sidra Zafar was given cash prize of Rs. 50,000 for presenting the best paper at the conference.

Speaking as the chief guest, Director General IR of College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan (CPSP) Prof. Khalid Masood Gondal said Pakistan was facing acute shortage of trained and qualified ophthalmologists as against the required number of 100,000 ophthalmologists, Pakistan only had 30,000 ophthalmologists at the moment while there were only a few hundred specialists in the emerging field of pediatric ophthalmology.

“As per World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations, we need at least 100,000 trained and qualified ophthalmologists but currently we only have 30,000 eye specialists in the country”, he said and claimed that CPSP was trying its level best to overcome the shortage of eye specialists by motivating young doctors in the field of ophthalmology.

Prof Gondal claimed that female doctors were enthusiastically joining the field of ophthalmology and urged them to get specialization in the emerging field of pediatric ophthalmology to prevent blindness among children.

Eminent ophthalmologist Prof Sharif Hashmani said diabetes had emerged as the leading cause of loss of vision among Pakistanis where more than 25 percent diabetics were losing their vision due to uncontrolled diabetes and its complications.

“There are over 26 percent diabetics in Pakistan, of which 25 percent lose their vision due to diabetes and its complications. Fortunately, diabetes is an avoidable disease or it can be managed and controlled through medicines and healthy lifestyle”, Dr. Hashmani said.

He urged people to adopt healthy lifestyle to avoid having diabetes and hypertension, the biggest cause of blindness in Pakistan at the moment and urged people to approach trained and qualified doctors in case of any vision related problems as most of the eye diseases were now treatable in Pakistan.

To a query, he said excessive use of 4th generation antibiotics was another problem in causing drug resistant eye diseases in Pakistan where drugs were not responding to bacterial eye infections and urged doctors not to prescribe 4th generation antibiotics to patients while urging people to avoid self-medication.

Another leading ophthalmologist Dr Misbahul Aziz said cataract or Motiya was another common cause of blindness in Pakistan whose causes were aging, diabetes, hypertension and smoking and urged people to approach doctors before it gets too late and people start losing their vision at the hands of a easily treatable disease.

Several other experts also spoke on various techniques including OCT usage in prevention of blindness while young doctors from different public and private medical Universities and colleges attended the moot in a large number.