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Breakthroughs in ophthalmology

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2020 was a year of significant progress in the field of ophthalmology

From technological advances and new medications to developments in surgical procedures, there was much cause for optimism in the opthalmic industry. Recently, Dr Ammar Safar, who is the Medical Director of Moorfields Eye Hospitals UAE, gave his assessment on medical breakthroughs in his field in 2020 and anticipated advancements this year.

According to Safar, 2020 was an exciting year in terms of technological advancements and surgical techniques. Among the breakthroughs that he found particularly significant were technological advancements in implantable intraocular lenses for cataract surgery as well as refractive lens extractions. In the field of vitreoretinal surgery and specifically involving large and chronic macular hole surgery, significant advancements were introduced to the original surgical technique.

In terms of medicines used to treat ocular diseases, there were important discussions around recently introduced medications for the management of exudative age-related macular degeneration. A new dry eye medication was also introduced and discussed by a panel of experts in the area.

Innovations

When it comes to medications and procedures in the testing phase, Safar explained that there are multiple medications in phase three trials that are currently being investigated and are expected to be approved in 2021 ahead of clinical use. This is mainly in the area of management of diabetic retinopathy, which is the effect of diabetes on the retina. 

“Management of diabetic retinopathy is currently dependent on injecting medications in the eye on a regular basis, usually monthly in order to keep the disease under control,” he said. “Several pharmaceutical companies are currently investigating medications that would last longer and hence require much less frequent injections, such as every six months or yearly.”

Another innovative technology is the much-anticipated introduction of a drug delivery device that would be implanted in the patient’s Eye and refilled with medication once every six months period. “This will definitely reduce the treatment burden on the patient and result in the improvement of their functional vision,” he added.

New medications are also expected for the management of glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. In the area of the retina, there is a new procedure for the closure of large recurrent and chronic macular holes. This is considered a breakthrough in the area of vitreoretinal surgery. 

“New procedures are being performed for the management of glaucoma patients. Interestingly, these show excellent control of the disease with minimal surgery,” said Safar. “The advantage of minimally invasive surgery is that it is a simple procedure done in the office as opposed to an operating room.”

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