Moorfields Eye Hospital in Abu Dhabi saves the vision —and the career— of future dentist

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A Moorfields Eye Hospital ophthalmologist has performed a life-changing surgery on a 23-year-old patient after diagnosing him with a progressive eye disease that is prevalent in Middle Eastern communities.

Mogemad Osama, an Ajman University student from Palestine who plans to become a dentist, struggled for years with devastating vision loss which caused him to change his prescription glasses multiple times. After deciding that he needed to seek help, Mogemad was referred to Dr. Esmaeil Arbabi at Moorfields Eye Hospital, a Mubadala Health partner.

He feared he would not be able to realize his dream of practicing dentistry. “My career depends on two things: my eyes and my hands,” he said. “When I first started having problems with my vision, it was a huge disappointment for me. But I never give up.”

Mogemad was soon diagnosed with Keratoconus, which affects the structure of the cornea and gradually causes blurred vision that cannot be corrected with glasses. According to a recent study, while the disease affects only one in 2,000 people worldwide, the prevalence of the disease in the UAE is 2.7 percent, which is 54 percent higher than the global average.1 The condition also impacts both men and women and typically stabilizes by the time people reach their 30s, although by then serious damage could have been caused.

According to Dr. Esmaeil, who has treated a number of cases of Keratoconus, the cause of the disease is unknown, but genetics and environmental factors could play a role. Osama’s father had surgery several years ago for the same condition.

Instead of opting for a corneal transplant, Dr. Esmaeil performed a minimally invasive surgery, called cross-linking, combined with a sophisticated laser treatment on Mogemad’s left eye. The advanced laser reshapes the cornea and smoothens the irregularities caused by Keratoconus. This will then be immediately followed by the application of Vitamin B eyedrops and shining of an ultraviolet light on the eye. The procedure only takes just 15 minutes to complete and has a 95 percent chance in stopping the progression of the disease.

“Early diagnosis and early treatment are absolutely essential,” said Dr. Esmaeil. “If we catch this early enough, we can treat it so that it’s like nothing has happened at all. But if you delay, there’s a risk of a lifetime wearing hard, rigid contact lenses, or ultimately requiring a corneal transplant. It could lead to a poor quality of life for the rest of your life.”

“Before the procedure I was experiencing double vision; it wasn’t clear at all,” said Mogemad. “But 10 days after, everything in my left eye was back to normal. I even returned to university and started to work again. It would be fair to say that my career has been saved by Dr. Esmaeil and the great staff at Moorfields.”

The main symptoms of keratoconus are gradual worsening of vision and frequent need for changing eyeglasses.

“If you have these symptoms, see a corneal specialist or ophthalmologist,” stressed Dr. Esmaeil, who is working to raise awareness about the disease as it can require a specialist familiar with the disease, rather than a general optometrist. He also warns anyone experiencing these symptoms against eye rubbing, which can make Keratoconus worse.