Almost one in five Italians suffer from it visual impairments
serious (approximately 2% of the population aged 15 and over) o moderate (16.7% of the population). Much higher percentages are registered among the elderly: those with serious or moderate eye problems are the most common 33.8% of the over-65s and well the 41.9% of the over-75s, as confirmed by the data (2019) of the “Report on the state of implementation of the policy on the prevention of blindness, education and restoration of sight” recently sent to Parliament by the Ministry of Health. The number of people affected by visually impaired it is also increasing because the progressive increase in life expectancy has led to a greater spread of eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, retinal vascular pathologies. The risk is that by 2030 the blind will double
if immediate action is not takenwarns the Italian Society of Ophthalmology (Soi) that on the occasion of the twentieth international congress scheduled for May 25 to 27 in Rome, attention is drawn to the need for a change of course in the field of prevention and ophthalmic care in the National Health Service (NHS).
Long waiting times and fragmented visits
Today, cataract surgery in an NHS facility can take two to three years. Just as there are long waits in the public for visits and diagnostic tests. Those who can afford it turn to the private sector, those who can’t wait or give up treatment. The visitsthen are «fragmented», as Matteo Piovella, president of Soi explains: «If a citizen does not see well, he cannot perform a complete eye examination in public in one go. Different times and tickets have to be paid for each exam. At least 3-6 months pass before a diagnosis is made, entering and leaving hospital clinics or wards; meanwhile, pathology and vision worsen without adequate treatments.
Innovative technologies but scarce among the public
Tremendous strides have been made in ophthalmology over the last twenty years, from the development of innovative technologies that enable ever more accurate diagnoses in real time, bee new surgical techniques and pharmacological therapies. «Unfortunately, however – emphasizes Piovella – the organizational and economic problems have punished our health service, for which the adoption of these new technologies within public structures only reaches 4%. And it is the patients who pay the consequences. For example, continues the president Soi, of the approximately 650,000 cataract operations performed each year in Italy, only 0.6 percent of patients have used an artificial lens that can correct all visual impairments and presbyopia». As well as the patients who suffer from it are punished maculopathy. «In Italy – says Piovella – yes only 30% of those in need have access to adequate care: in fact about 300,000 intravitreal injections are performed each year compared to the million or more done in England, France, Germany ».
There are few ophthalmologists in the health service
Then there’s the problem of it shortage of ophthalmologists in public health. According to calculations by Soi, of the seven thousand ophthalmologists working in Italy less than 3 thousand they do in the structures of the National Health Service and within a few years one out of three (about a thousand) will reach the age of pension. This in light of a demand for eye care that has grown 20-fold since the 1980s (when Law No. 833/78 establishing the National Health Service came into force, ed) so far, according to Soi estimates; with consequences as well long waiting times at the public. A problem that affects almost all branches of medicine, but for some, such as ophthalmology, “it is particularly apparent through thehuge demand for treatment against a small number of ophthalmologists who work in the National Health Service,” underlined Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation, who added: “The goal of public health should always be making innovative technologies available to all patientsin ophthalmology can mean prevent blindness».
Call to institutions
The Manifesto “Access to sustainable eye care in Italy”, developed by the Italian Society of Ophthalmology, contains some proposals for provide timely and quality ophthalmic services, both diagnostic and surgical, in the context of the National Health Service, to prevent the loss of face of thousands of compatriots. According to the ophthalmologists, it is necessary, among other things, to reduce waiting times for visits, examinations and surgical procedures; ensure access to less fragmented visits by providing the public with innovative technological tools that today enable precision diagnosis in real time, as well as advanced therapies and interventions; increase in the number of ophthalmologists working in public health. Hence the appeal to the institutions to commit to this investments and an innovative approach Unpleasant strengthen public ophthalmology.
I am Barbara Redford, a professional journalist and writer with extensive experience in news reporting. I have been writing for The News Dept since 2019, covering topics related to health and wellness. My passion is to keep people informed about the latest developments in healthcare and the medical industry. With my articles, I strive to create awareness on various diseases while also highlighting their remedies or treatments.
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