Garo Meghrigian Institute for Preventive Ophthalmology (Meghrigian Institute) of the College of Health Sciences at the American University of Armenia is currently implementing a project aimed at reducing the incidence of blindness and visual impairment due to diabetic retinopathy in Gegharkunik marz of Armenia.
Diabetic retinopathy is a well-recognized complication of diabetes mellitus. Good control of diabetes significantly reduces the risk for diabetic retinopathy, while the treatment of retinopathy can reduce the risk for visual loss by more than 90%. Screening programs at early stages when treatment can prevent visual loss, as well as health education programs for persons with diabetes, help to prevent blindness due to diabetic retinopathy.
The first stage of the project included training primary health care providers on the importance of early detection of diabetic retinopathy and the need for regular ophthalmic examination of diabetic patients. Fourteen primary health care physicians and 29 nurses were trained by Meghrigian Institute at the Lions Regional Ophthalmic Unit in Sevan in September/October 2011.
Meghrigian Institute is now in the second stage of the project implementation, which focuses on free ophthalmic examinations of diabetes patients in regional centers and villages of Gegharkunik marz for early detection of diabetic retinopathy and assessment of possible eye complications due to diabetes. All diagnosed patients receive free ophthalmic consultation about the diagnosis and further treatment. In addition to free screening, diabetes patients receive educational brochures developed by Meghrigian Institute to increase patients’ awareness about diabetes management and prevention of diabetic retinopathy. To date, the Meghrigian Institute has covered 268 diabetes patients from Sevan, Gavar, and Chambarak, and continues its work in other towns and villages of Gegharkunik marz.
Meghrigian Institute has been involved in prevention of avoidable blindness since 1999 through scientific research, providing preventive screening services to vulnerable populations, strengthening ophthalmic services in regions of Armenia and trainings for health professionals and the general public.