THERE is a pressing issue in the state involving diabetes related eye diseases in younger people, resulting in some going blind, said a consultant Ophthalmologist and Vitreoretinal surgeon.
Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital’s Dr Ong Lieh Bin, who is the only Vitreoretinal surgeon in the state (government hospital) said this was the productive age whereby they are supposed to go to work, raise their families and contribute to society.
However, most of them sought treatment late, resulting in poor vision, and in some cases many going totally blind.
“It is a sad situation, where instead of them taking care of their aged parents, the parents are the ones looking after them once again.
“In some cases these patients are married, and have young children, but they cannot work due to their medical condition.
“Such situations arise because they never went for check-ups despite eye screening tests being available.
“If they had sought treatment during the early stages, their conditions could have been treated,” he said during an interview recently.
Since the Vitreoretinal unit services was set up in 2012 by Dr Ong at the hospital, he has carried out over 1,000 surgeries involving various diseases.
Prior to this, cases were referred to either the Selayang, Penang or Kedah hospitals.
Dr Ong said when he was attached to the Selayang hospital doing his fellowship, he realised that 40% of such cases were from Perak.
He said the condition of the eyes of most of the patients were in a terrible condition, probably due to the misconception of the treatment itself.
Dr Ong said Vitreoretinal diseases were mainly age-related, due to trauma and affected those suffering from diabetes.
He said the best outcome for such cases was early treatment, where the eyes are saved via Vitreoretinal surgery.
He said while the unit has saved many of such patients from blindness, due to lack of awareness or misconception of the treatment, many have also presented with inoperable diseases.
“Unfounded fear of pain from the surgery, lack of understanding of the treatment goals and problems of coming to the hospital for repeated treatments are some of the reasons people shy away from seeking treatment early.
“The public should be aware that there are many such serious conditions that are treatable in this day and age, with good results and outcomes.
“Some are under the perception that if they are suffering from poor vision, it is probably because they are suffering from cataract, but this may not always be the case as there is more to it especially if suffering from underlying diseases such as diabetes,” he added.
Explaining Vitreoretinal diseases, Dr Ong said the retina was a very thin nervous tissue inside the eyes, and it was likened to the film in a camera, and its functions were to receive light and transmit it into the brain via the optic nerve, which is processed and perceived as vision.
He said the space between the lens and the retina is called vitreous cavity, which is filled with translucent gel (vitreous gel) attached to the retina.
He added that Vitreoretinal diseases are a myriad of conditions affecting the vitreous gel, and the retina, and many of such conditions are serious and potentially blinding.
Examples of such conditions are retinal breaks, retinal detachments, vitreous hemorrhages, and severe diabetic eye diseases.
Dr Ong said treatment of these conditions requires highly complex surgeries that offer prompt intervention, and which could potentially save eyesight.
He added that early treatment gives better prognosis and visual outcomes, and that in most cases, the patient would be able to see much better and even in bad cases, vision improvement can be considerable to allow one to function independently.
Dr Ong said those suffering from blurred vision even after changing their spectacles should visit an eye specialist and find out what is wrong with them.
“If they don’t do anything about it then patients can go blind, and the major problems are for those who are suffering from diabetes, because about 60% of patients who are suffering from severe diabetes have eye diseases.
“When I was in Australia, the success rate of such surgeries were 95%, and many patients improve until they are able to read but in Malaysia the patients come late, and therefore even after surgery the patients are unable to read,” he added.
He advised people between 40 and 60-years old to get their eyes checked, especially those with underlying problems such as diabetes.
“With early intervention, the eyesight is salvageable, but when you lose your eyesight, you actually lose half your life because you will be unable to function, and lose joy in life.
“Many people don’t realise this until they lose their eyesight, therefore I keep emphasising on seeking early treatment,” he added.