KOTA KINABALU: The incidence of blindness in Sabah is four times higher than in central Peninsular Malaysia, according to a study by Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).
Its Medical and Health Science Faculty Dean Prof Dr Mohammad Saffree Jeffree said this was due to several factors, including geographical and financial.
He said patients in Sabah delayed seeking treatment for their eyes because hospitals were too far from their homes, along with high transport and medical costs.
“In (our country’s) National Eye Survey, the blindness prevalence in Sabah is four times higher compared with other Malaysian states in the central peninsula.
“We can prevent and reduce diseases and disorders related to the eyes or ophthalmology by increasing awareness of its importance,” he said in a statement yesterday.
Dr Saffree said the common causes of blindness were untreated cataracts (58%), diabetic retinopathy (10%), other posterior segment illnesses (8%) and glaucoma (6%).
He added that short-sightedness was another major issue faced by children.
Dr Saffree said the wide and lengthy use of gadgets and lack of outdoor activities, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic, had made this problem worse.
UMS Vice-Chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Kasim Md Mansor said this could be prevented by improving ophthalmology services and creating more awareness on eyecare.
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 UMS Rural Medical Education Centre in Sikuati, Kudat.
The Good Eye, Good Vision programme was aimed at increasing awareness among 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 them.
“Early intervention can help reduce the side effects, which can include blindness,” Prof Shuaibah said.
Kudat district deputy education officer Matius Alok said the effort was welcomed and could improve eye health among locals in the area.