Common Chronic Disease Patterns in Arabian Gulf, Saudi Arabia & YemenDr. O. P. Kapoor
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Ophthalmic Diseases

So common is trachoma in Arab population that many of these patients accept it as normal and do not even complain to the physician or ask for an opinion of an ophthalmologist. Others do land up with ophthalmic surgeons because of complications of trachoma resulting in severe visual loss, corneal opacities or even blindness.

Only poor hygiene would not explain the very high incidence, of this disease because Dacryocystitis which is also related to poor hygiene is very uncommon in Arabs.

The following are some of the other observations made in this population in whom the most common chronic eye symptom is poor vision.

Refractive errors which are uncorrected are commonly picked up on ophthalmic examination. So also is Amblyopia. Surprisingly, Presbyopia occurs in Arabs at an age earlier than Western or even Indian population. It is not uncommon to see it at the age of 35 to 40 years. Even if a margin is kept for the ignorance of these patients for their correct age, for some reason or the other, presbyopia starts at an early age. Some patients then may connect an organic disease in the body responsible for it. However, majority of the Arabs do not do much reading and presbyopia is only incidentally detected.

Hereditary macular degeneration known as Stargadt's disease seems to be more common in Arabs.

Solar macular burns are a common cause of poor vision in this population. This must be related to the extreme heat and sun light in their countries.

Although we see plenty of Arabs coming for cataract surgery, the real incidence of this disease does not seem to be more than that seen in Indian population. Two reasons are obvious for this apparent high incidence. One is that most of the Arabs live long and thus a large number that we see are elderly. Secondly they go abroad looking for better surgical care, which is really speaking already available in countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

I have hardly ever seen an Arab having diabetic retinopathy. In the ophthalmic department of Jaslok Hospital, Bombay, out of more than three hundred diabetics screened, only three patients had diabetic retinopathy.

Hypertensive retinopathy of Grades 111 and IV or a case of malignant hypertension has hardly been ever seen in an Arab.

Although so many elderly Arabs come for medical check up, surprisingly senile macular degeneration is less common in them

Sickle cell anaemia is common, yet the incidence of fundus being affected by this disease seems to be low.

Finally all the eye complications of connective tissue disorders are very rare. As mentioned elsewhere, this group of illnesses is uncommon in the Arab population.