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Today, according to the statistics of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation, 20.7 million Russians, that is, every seventh inhabitant of the country, suffers from visual impairments. And the number of such patients is growing inexorably: 15 years ago there were one and a half times less – 13.7 million people. Age-related macular degeneration of the retina is the most common cause of vision loss in people over 50. But the way out seems to be found: this year, for the first time, the Foundation for Research and Treatment of Retinal Diseases (created in 2017) won a presidential grant, and as a result, the project of this foundation, “Save Sight”, was launched. Its goal is the prevention of formidable eye pathologies.
Is there such an opportunity for everyone – to preserve their vision? The founder and chairwoman of the Foundation for Research and Treatment of Retinal Diseases, ophthalmologist, candidate of medical sciences, Tatiana Andreevna Avanesova answers this and other questions of MK.
“Currently, every twentieth inhabitant of Russia is at risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD),” Tatiana Andreevna Avanesova said in an interview with MK. “However, 50% of our citizens have never heard of AMD and how to prevent this disease. Unfortunately, representatives of the older generation of our country believe that the deterioration of vision over the years is an irreversible physiological process. But this is not at all the case.”
— That is, are you convinced that the deterioration of vision can somehow be slowed down or even completely stopped?
— Exactly: now it is already known that 80% of cases of vision loss can be prevented, however, if you know how. There are effective measures to prevent deterioration. On July 1 this year, thanks to the presidential grant we won, the project of the Foundation for Research and Treatment of Retinal Diseases “Save Sight. Improving access to quality ophthalmic care for older people” was launched with the support of the Presidential Grants Fund. The goal of the project is to reduce, and, if possible, completely prevent the risks of pathological deterioration of vision or complete loss of vision among the older generation of Russia by educating and informing the population.
Our project has set specific tasks:
— the first is to raise awareness of the general population, especially the senior category 50+, about the need for preventive examinations in order to prevent diseases of the retina of the eye, in particular, age-related macular dystrophy;
— the second – carrying out diagnostic measures according to the principle “here and now” in order to identify cases of pathologies of the retina of the eye without the need for a primary visit to diagnostic clinics and medical institutions;
— the third is teaching older citizens to diagnose AMD using the Amsler test, in order to subsequently use the method for self-diagnosis and apply it among their friends and acquaintances.
— Will you limit yourself to Moscow or will you go out to other regions with your project?
— The activities within the project will take place in three cities of Russia: Moscow, Voronezh and Vladikavkaz. By the way, the first event – Doors Open Day – was already held on July 13 at the Central Clinical Hospital of Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation. It was visited by 11 people, each of whom underwent a full ophthalmological examination. It includes: test of visual acuity, measurement of ocular pressure, biomicroscopy, examination of the fundus with pupil dilation and OCT diagnostics (optical coherence tomography of the eye).
In addition to general information about the risks of development and prevention of age-related macular degeneration, all patients were given Amsler tests and explained how to use them. Now the seminar participants will be able to conduct this test at home, checking the vision of their family and friends.
— And what pathologies were you able to find as a result of such a powerful diagnosis? And most importantly, what should these patients do next?
— As a result of a comprehensive examination, three patients were first diagnosed with such serious diseases as: blind rupture of the macula (central retinal zone); anterior ischemic neuropathy and glaucoma. The patient who applied for help with a diagnosis of age-related macular degeneration (dry form) received additional individual consultation, including detailed recommendations on the tactics of further treatment, adherence to a special diet and regular visits to an ophthalmologist.
— It is known that you dedicated your first event to the birthday of the ophthalmologist, candidate of medical sciences Elena Saxonova. What prompted this choice?
— Elena Olimpievna Saxonova, without any exaggeration, is an outstanding specialist in this field and an amazing person. She devoted her entire professional life to serving the profession and helping patients with retinal diseases. Since 1959 she worked at the Helmholtz Research Institute of Eye Diseases, and since 1988 — at the City Clinical Hospital No. 15, where, in addition to medical work, she was a senior researcher at the problem laboratory of the Russian State Medical University. Over the years, she had trained dozens of specialists, under her supervision, dissertations were defended, dozens of scientific works were completed and published, a chapter of the textbook “Eye Diseases” was written (edited by V.G. Kopaeva, 2001).
But for all her merits, the famous doctor Saxonova was a very modest person. And the most important and unchanged in her life was her love for patients. Her amazing ability to listen and empathize, to do the impossible for a patient in an extremely difficult situation, delighted and inspired her students and colleagues. She could pay for the patient’s treatment herself if necessary. And the patient might never know about it. The main direction of ophthalmology for her was the surgical treatment of one of the most severe pathologies of the fundus – retinal detachment. Together with her students, she pioneered the treatment of retinal detachment using the temporary balloon filling of the sclera. She saved thousands of people, she helped them preserve one of the most amazing gifts – the ability to see.
… Elena Olimpievna Saxonova passed away on November 4, 2010. But her business lives on, surgery of diseases of the retina is developing by leaps and bounds. Today, with the advent of new technologies, the pharmaceutical industry, and most importantly, with timely access to ophthalmologists, many diseases of the retina can be successfully cured or their progression stopped. And all this would not have been possible without the experience, knowledge and lessons of our mentors. Such as Elena Olimpievna Saxonova who was one of such people all her life, a doctor with a capital letter.