Eye Care Blog

Hilton Foundation sees Avarind Eye Care System as a standout institution

Added 12/3/2010

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.4 million children around the world are blind. Perhaps more startling, a report from Unite For Sight says that up to 70 percent of childhood blindness is likely preventable.

Unfortunately, health care around the world does not meet the needs of the 135 million visually impaired people on the globe. But Avarind Eye Care System is hoping to change this.

Dr. G. Venkataswamy founded Avarind Eye Care System in the 1970s with a mission to offer visitors outstanding eye care. Today, it draws patients from around the world. Avarind doctors perform 300,000 eye surgeries each year – 70 percent of which are subsidized for the poor.

Avarind – which currently operates five hospitals and manages four others – has worked with more than 260 eye hospitals in India and other developing countries to expand their ability to provide eye care. It has also participated in establishing national eye care plans for India, Rwanda and Eritrea.

For its outstanding service, Avarind Eye Care System has been awarded the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s annual humanitarian prize. Foundation leaders believe that Avarind offers unparalleled care with an admirable eye for social justice. "There is no compromise on quality or care," Hilton said.

The eye care provider will receive $1.5 million, which will be used to help the organization achieve its goal of managing 100 hospitals worldwide by 2015 to provide sight to millions.

Officials are thrilled to be given this honor. "The worldwide visibility and recognition that comes with the Hilton Humanitarian Prize will allow us to bring our healthcare model to alleviate suffering in many more parts of the world," said Dr. P. Namperumalsamy, Aravind’s chairman.

The prize will be presented to Avarind at the Global Philanthropy Forum’s ninth annual conference on April 20.

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New, popular eye drugs put strain on ophthalmologists

Added 11/3/2010

A new procedure that treats the leading cause of blindness in Canada has become so popular there may not be enough trained doctors to keep up with demand in the future, according to a Queen’s University-led study.
“We have to explore this issue,” said Robert Campbell, an ophthalmologist at the Queen’s School of Medicine and the study’s lead author. “There are ramifications of this huge upswing in a procedure that several years ago we rarely performed.”
The procedure involves monthly injections by specially trained ophthalmologists into the eyes of patients suffering from age-related macular degeneration.
There are now two drugs – Lucentis and Avastin – that improve vision in a significant number of people with age-related macular degeneration.  But there are 13 million people in Ontario and only about 400 ophthalmologists.
With ophthalmologists now devoting a huge amount of extra time to this procedure, overall access to eye care, which is already strained, is coming under even greater pressure.
Data from the Ontario Health Insurance Plan between 2000 and 2008 reveals that between 2005 and November 2007 the rate of intravitreal injections grew eight-fold – from 3.5 to 25.9 injections per 100,000 Ontarians per month. In 2007, 50 per cent of intravitreal injections were performed by just three per cent of Ontario’s ophthalmologists.
“We knew that anecdotally there had been a huge increase in the number of intravitreal injections and this study finally gives us quantitative data,” Dr. Campbell says. “We now know exactly how large the upswing has been to date.”
Dr. Campbell feels that it is likely that all provinces in Canada are experiencing similar increases in the need for these specialized therapies, so trying to make them available across wide geographic areas is another concern.
The study is published in this month’s issue of Archives of Ophthalmology.
The research team includes Queen’s researchers Marlo Whitehead, Sudeep Gill (Providence Care hospital in Kingston), Susan Bronskill and Chaim Bell (University of Toronto), and J. Michael Paterson (McMaster University).

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Eye disease linked to weakened brain power in people with diabetes

Added 9/3/2010

The study looked at 1,066 people with Type 2 diabetes aged between 60 and 75 years old. Participants completed seven tests looking at memory, logic and concentration to establish their level of brain function. Those with retinopathy had worse average scores on most of the individual tests as well as on general cognitive ability compared to those without the condition. The results were independent of age and gender.

Mrs Jie Ding from the University of Edinburgh, who helped lead the research (as part of the Edinburgh Type 2 Diabetes Study), said: "These findings suggest that the severity of diabetic retinopathy is independently associated with cognitive dysfunction in people with Type 2 diabetes aged between 60 and 75 years old. This can mean either that cerebral microvascular disease, as indexed by retinopathy, may lead to cognitive decrements in old age or that poorer cognitive ability makes diabetes management more difficult, and in turn promotes the development of cerebral microvascular disease. It is also possible that a third unidentified factor is causing both diabetic retinopathy and the cognitive changes.

"The 4-year follow-up data of the ET2DS may clarify the temporal relationship of these associations. The seven neuropsychological tests assessed people's memory for faces, recollection of linear stories, vocabulary, the ability to re-organise a sequence of letters as well as some other cognitive functions.

"The results provide insights into the specific underlying mechanism of cognitive dysfunction in Type 2 diabetes, which is possibly due to a break-down of blood brain barrier (similar to changes in blood-retinal barrier as seen in diabetic retinopathy). From a clinical perspective, cognitive impairment in Type 2 diabetes may therefore be amenable to treatment and preventive strategies targeted at this small vessel disease."

Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Diabetes UK, said: "Retinopathy is an indicator of cerebral microvascular disease, which is when the small blood vessels in the brain are narrowed or blocked off and lead to a reduction in blood supply to the brain tissues. There is already evidence to suggest that cerebral microvascular disease and Type 2 diabetes may exacerbate the effects of aging on cognitive function. This study adds to this body of research as it suggests that diabetic retinopathy is linked to estimated life time cognitive decline in older people with Type 2 diabetes.

"Cognitive decline is the decline of brain functions such as memory, attention, and planning.

"If anyone with diabetes is concerned about their health they should consult their GP or diabetes healthcare professional."

The study found that participants with moderate to severe retinopathy performed worse in the non-verbal memory, mental flexibility and processing speed tests compared to those with mild or no retinopathy. It also suggested that the male participants with moderate to severe retinopathy may be more prone to cognitive decline in old age.

There are 2.35 million people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the UK and up to 500,000 who have the condition but do not know it. Almost two thirds of the 2.35 million people with Type 2 diabetes develop some degree of retinopathy within 20 years of being diagnosed.

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