Study finds blindness four times higher in Sabah than central Peninsular M'sia states

KOTA KINABALU: A study finds that the prevalence of blindness in Sabah is four times higher than in central Peninsular Malaysia, says Prof Dr Mohammad Saffree Jeffree.

The Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Medical and Health Science Faculty Dean said several factors contributed to this, including geographical and financial constraints.

He said in Sabah, the people use the excuse of distance from their home to hospital as well as medical expenses and transport fees to delay seeking medical attention when it comes to their eyes.

“The National Eye Survey in Malaysia (NESII) found that the prevalence of blindness in Sabah is four times higher than states in the central peninsula region,” he said in a statement Sunday (Nov 27).

“We can prevent and reduce diseases and disorders relating to the eyes or ophthalmology by increasing awareness of its importance,” said Dr Saffree.

He said the common causes of blindness were due to untreated cataract (58%), diabetic retinopathy (10%), other posterior segment illnesses (8%) and glaucoma (6%).

He also pointed out short sightedness as being another major issue faced by children, where the problem can start as early as early childhood.

Dr Saffree said the widespread and lengthy use of gadgets and lack of outdoor activities, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, had resulted in this problem worsening.

UMS vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Kasim Mansor said this can be prevented by improving ophthalmology services, and creating more awareness on eye care.

On this note, a team from the UMS Ophthalmology department led by Prof Dr Shuaibah Abd Ghani recently held an eye healthcare education programme at the Rural Medical Education Centre, UMS, in Sikuati Kudat.

Themed "Good Eye, Good Vision", this programme was aimed at increasing awareness on the issue at hand to local communities and for teachers to identify eye related problems in students, including short sightedness and strabismus (misaligned or crossed eyes).

Participants were trained to identify the first signs of these issues and to provide more input and information on how to address the matters thereafter.

“Early intervention can help reduce the side effects which can include blindness,” Dr. Shuaibah said.

Kudat district deputy education officer Matius Alok said the effort was much welcomed and could improve eye healthcare among locals in the area.

He said early detection of problems relating to the eyes would also help quicker treatment and intervention.

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