Viet Nam News
By Bích Hường
HÀ NỘI — One year after a surgery for cataracts, 75-year-old Trần Thị Tuyết from the northern province of Nam Định is worried about her vision once again. Over the last few days, everything started to go blurry.
The woman has type two diabetes and Graves’ disease, also known as toxic diffuse goiter. She is afraid of becoming blind – a possible complication of her diabetes.
During Tuyết’s Wednesday morning visit to Hà Nội Eye Hospital No 2, an eye examination by Vietnamese doctors and a conversation with a Swiss doctor reassured Tuyết and her family. Her eye illness was treated with a laser within a day and the problem seems to have been solved.
“Doctors are nice to us and work thoroughly,” she said, adding that she was satisfied.
“I heard that diabetes could have complications such as heart disease, kidney failure or blindness,” she said. “So I am very cautious with diabetes.”
Tuyết’s caution is reasonable. According to the Ministry of Health, Việt Nam has about 3.5 million people with diabetes, accounting for 6 per cent of its population.
One in every eight adults in Việt Nam suffers from prediabetes or diabetes, said Nguyễn Trọng Khoa, vice head of the ministry’s Medical Examination and Treatment Department.
Up to 71 per cent of diabetes patients in Việt Nam have not received proper treatment. Diabetes can have serious complications including cardiovascular diseases and issues of the kidney and eyes.
Diabetic eye disease, for example, along with diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic macular edema, have the potential to cause severe vision loss and blindness.
Doctors said the potential for loss of vision could be reduced by up to 95 per cent if diabetic complications related to the eyes are detected and treated early.
Dr Andre Dosso, the Swiss doctor Tuyết met with, said that with ageing population, people had more problems with diabetes and diabetic eye diseases.
“There is no difference between old people in Switzerland and Việt Nam,” he said, “With ageing, we have more cataract surgeries, need to do more to control glaucoma, more cases of diabetes and a higher risk of vision loss because of complications with diabetes.”
The ageing population is experiencing more cases of cataracts and glaucoma, the two main causes of blindness in Việt Nam.
The combination of an ageing population and the increase of chronic diseases shifts the pattern of blindness from cataracts or corneal opacity to glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy or Aged-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). AMD destroys your sharp, central vision, which you need to see objects clearly and to do tasks such as reading and driving, according to Eye Consultants of Pennsylvania.
Dr Sylvain Dreifuss, another Swiss doctor working as a volunteer at Hà Nội Eye Hospital No 2, said that in some cases, diabetes patients died of complications rather than the diabetes.
It was necessary to have regular check-ups to detect symptoms of diabetes and its complications, he said.
A Hà Nội Eye Hospital No 2 doctor (right, standing) observes Doctor Dosso’s eye examination and consultation. — VNS Photo Bích Hường
The two doctors have a combined 50 years of experience treating eye diseases, especially cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic eye disease. They are on a voluntary working visit in Việt Nam.
Both of them visited Việt Nam as tourists before deciding to make a working trip after their friend put them in touch with an eye doctor at the hospital.
Sylvain said that he wanted to share his experience with Vietnamese doctors and learn about the differences between Switzerland and Việt Nam.
From October 15 to 26, they provided consultations and treated glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy-hypertension for old patients at Hà Nội Eye Hospital No 2. On October 17, Dr Dreifuss offered free exams for elderly, diabetic and hypertensive patients at the healthcare centre in Thịnh Quang Ward, Đống Đa District.
The two doctors also gave clinical training to the hospital’s young doctors and students of the Ophthalmic Department of Hà Nội Medical University. During the training, Vietnamese doctors were instructed on how to diagnose and treat specific ailments. They held another course on retinopathy doctors in Hà Nội’s hospitals on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Speaking of the facilities and staff that he saw at Hà Nội Hospital No 2, Dr Dosso said they had “everything need to treat eye disease, from machines to competence.”
Doctor Nguyễn Thị Hương said working at the hospital, they had the opportunity to work with foreign experts including Professor Bruce Moore from the US and the two doctors from Switzerland.
She said she could see differences in the way foreign doctors and Vietnamese ones talked to and examined patients, but they had many similarities in diagnosis and treatment.
Dr Hương said that when attending training offered by foreign doctors, Vietnamese doctors like her found no major language barrier because they understood the scientific terms and they had assistance from interpreters and colleagues who studied overseas. — VNS