Cataract - A great Concern

Malaysians can expect a cataract “tsunami” come 2050, with many of them possibly ending up blind if their condition is not detected early and treated ac­­cor­­dingly, said the Health Minis­try.

Its deputy ophthalmology service head Dr Mohd Aziz Husni said there were currently 120,000 cataract patients, and the number was expected to triple in 33 years as the country ages.

A cataract is a condition in which the lens of an eye becomes cloudy.

Age-related cataracts typically oc­­cur in older people, but this condition is usually treated by replacing the cloudy lens with an artificial lens.

“We are becoming an ageing nation and we will have more age-related diseases such as cataract and macular degeneration,” Dr Mohd Aziz said at the closing ceremony of the Sayangi Mata Vision Clinic project at the Tun Hussein Onn National Eye Hospital here yesterday.

The National Eye Survey 2014 found 216,000 Malaysians became blind because of delays in cataract surgery.

It also found that the condition caused 272,000 others to be visually impaired, an outcome Dr Mohd Aziz blamed on lack of awareness about cataract, diabetes and glaucoma.

While cataract remains a main cause of preventable blindness, he pointed out that doctors were also seeing a lot of patients with advanced diabetes-related eye diseases due to the high prevalence of diabetes here.

On complaints about long waiting times at government-run eye centres, Dr Mohd Aziz said not all centres were like that, although he agreed that patients at some centres might have to wait up to six months for surgery.

He said the ministry performed 50,000 cataract surgeries a year, while private hospitals as well as university and army hospitals shoulder another 50,000 and 20,000 surgeries respectively.

The ministry’s surgeries were performed in 45 eye departments in hospitals throughout Malaysia, as well as mobile services in the peninsula’s east coast and Sarawak, he said, adding that northern Sabah would get a centre soon.

The ministry also teamed up with NGOs to conduct community cata­ract screening so that people may be referred for further assess­ment.

Besides that, the 1Malaysia Cata­ract Clinic has an ongoing programme, while mobile clinics on board buses operate almost every day to serve areas without ophthalmologists.

/theSTAR 06-05-2017

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