On a mission with a vision

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 19 May 2013

PETALING JAYA: Four decades ago, Dennis Lewis was a young bank officer in London ready to scale the corporate ladder.

However, his career ended prematurely when he was diagnosed with macular dystrophy, a disease which affected his eyesight, at age 27.

“My optician noticed the signs before I did, and it was a big shock to me.

“I found it difficult to read, write, watch television, drive and even recognise familiar faces,” he said at the Retinal Diseases Awareness Week event at 1Utama shopping centre here yesterday.

The event, held for the first time, was to raise awareness on age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to blindness.

Lewis, now 63, recalled a recent incident in which his wife had brought home a cat.

“One day, she left her black handbag next to the cat, and guess which one I was petting?”

Soon after he was diagnosed, Lewis had joined the Macular Society in Britain, a national charity which provides emotional support to those affected by central vision loss. He is now the society’s patient ambassador.

“Although early stages of the diseases may be treatable, some patients refuse as they are afraid of things like injection of medicine directly into the eye.

“It is a challenge to convince people that treatment methods are safe and effective,” said Lewis, who is legally blind.

The event, by the Malaysian Society of Ophthalmology, which ends today, has talks by eye care professionals and free retinal screenings, among others.

Organising chairman Dr Kenneth Fong said they were trying to change the mindset of people, who would only undergo eye checks when they experience sight issues in both eyes.

“Senior citizens often believe that blurring of vision is common as they age and let it be until it is too late to treat,” he said.

Dr Fong explained that while AMD generally only affected those above 50 years old, diabetic retinopathy could affect anyone who has diabetes.

“We advise the public, especially those with diabetes, to do regular eye check-ups to detect any symptoms of these diseases early,” he added.

Among other programmes people can expect at the event today are stage activities and the Misty Maze challenge, a game which allows regular people to experience the vision of those with AMD or diabetic retinopathy.

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