At the recent debate on the Health Ministry’s budget, the Government spoke about helping diabetic patients get more convenient access to eye-screening services at general practitioner clinics under the Primary Care Network.
As a primary eye-care professional, I am glad for this effort to help detect medical problems at an earlier stage.
I urge the Government to do more to raise the awareness of the importance of eye-screening and to also consider implementing a nationwide eye-screening programme involving both public and private eye-care professionals.
Those aged 40 and older are not only at a higher risk of common health problems such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol levels and cervical cancer, they are also at risk of potentially sight-threatening conditions such as cataract, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy.
Eye-screening plays an important role in the early diagnosis and management of these blinding conditions, many of which do not produce symptoms until late in the course of the ailment.
Vision loss can adversely impact the overall health and well-being of older adults in many ways. These include increased risk of falls, fractures and depression, as well as difficulty in identifying medications, which can lead to medication errors that affect their health.
These, in turn, result in a higher mortality rate among seniors who are visually impaired.
Glaucoma is a disease that slowly affects the nerves of the eye and results in irreversible vision loss and blindness. It is also known as “the silent thief of sight” as it does not present any early symptoms. It can be detected only by specialised tests such as an eye-pressure check (tonometry) and visual field examination (perimetry).
Diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes, can result in bleeding and swelling of the retina. Early diabetic retinopathy can be controlled through simple lifestyle changes, including a healthy diet. Uncontrolled diabetes can eventually lead to irreversible vision loss.
These conditions can be detected through regular eye screening with eye-care professionals such as optometrists or ophthalmologists. Early detection and timely treatment lead to better treatment outcomes.