In conjunction with WORLD SIGHT DAY on October 8, Ipoh Echo talks to Consultant Ophthalmologist Dr S.S. GILL on prevention of visual impairment.
Visual impairment is any kind of vision loss to the extent that even with conventional forms of correction or treatment, the person’s vision remains poor. Being visually impaired can be frightening, especially when it affects those who once had good vision.
World Health Organization facts:
About 285 million people are visually impaired worldwide:
- 39 million are blind and
- 246 million have low vision (severe or moderate visual impairment)
- preventable causes are as high as 80% of the total global visual impairment burden.
- About 90% of the world’s visually impaired people live in developing countries.
- An estimated 19 million children are visually impaired worldwide.
- Globally, uncorrected refractive errors are the main cause of visual impairment.
- Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness.
- 65% of visually impaired, and 82% of blind people are over 50 years of age, although this age group comprises only 20% of the world population.
What Causes Visual Impairment?
CATARACT or the clouding of the eye’s lens prevents light from passing through to the retina causing cloudy vision. Cataracts may cause gradual vision loss which sometimes may not be noticeable to the patient until they have had an accident of some sort. Cataracts usually affect people in their 50s, 60s and 70s, but may appear earlier too. Many of my patients who present early are golfers and sports people who do not always wear good sunglasses when they are out in the sun. Cataract surgery easily restores vision in these cases.
If you have diabetes mellitus, make sure you are screened regularly for DIABETIC RETINOPATHY – a condition where the tiny blood vessels in the retina (inside of eye) are damaged due to diabetes. A diabetic having no blurring vision does not mean he or she has no diabetic eye problems. By the time blurring vision occurs, the eye condition is often serious.
GLAUCOMA is another blinding condition where an increase in eye pressure damages the optic nerve. Early detection by screening is crucial or the vision will gradually deteriorate over time to a small tunnel vision, and eventually blindness. INJURY is another common cause for vision loss. Apart from windscreen injuries, accidents like getting hit with a hockey ball or a shuttlecock, or a child’s eye pierced with a sharp toy are common. “Avoid buying toys with sharp edges and prevent children from playing with chopsticks or pencils. Macular degeneration is another serious eye problem that causes progressive loss of central vision, causing difficulty in reading or watching TV with vision becoming distorted.
Preventing Visual Impairment
Diseases like glaucoma needs to be detected early and treated or damage is irreversible. “If you have underlying health problems like diabetes and hypertension, do get your eyes examined regularly and comply with prescription medication to prevent vision loss” says Dr Gill.