Eye disease on the rise in the East

Retinal Diseases weekAre “westernised” habits affecting Asian eyesight? Weights have soared in Malaysia which is statistically the fattest country in South-East Asia with two in five adults classed as overweight.

This has caused a dramatic increase in type 2 diabetes and as a consequence diabetic retinopathy, especially among the younger generation.

Diabetes can lead to progressive damage of the retina and often in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy there are no symptoms.

If left untreated the eye disease can lead to partial or complete blindness. Fortunately, around 90% of blindness caused by diabetic retinopathy is preventable if diagnosed early.

A second rising cause of vision loss in Asia is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an eye disease which affects older adults in particular. Unlike diabetic retinopathy, which can be spotted when a patient is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, AMD goes untreated more often than not.

According to consultant ophthalmologist Dr Tara Mary George almost 50% of AMD sufferers only seek medical attention in the later stages of the disease. This is due to the assumption that poor eyesight is part of old age, meaning that people accept worsening vision as they grow older.

Symptoms of AMD include distorted vision, where straight objects such as telephone poles and striped patterns appear wavy and blind spots or dark patches develop in the central vision.

However, symptoms do not always appear obvious to the affected person. Dr George notes that “Most people are not aware they have this condition because when one eye is affected the other eye compensates for it.”

As AMD can develop unnoticed it is vital that people over 40 visit their optician regularly. By screening annually for AMD an eye-care professional will be able to identify the disease at the earliest possible stage and dispense advice and supplements, such as the AREDS formulation, to help prevent vision loss.

Using the MPS II optometrists are able to conduct the macular pigment screening to detect the risk of AMD within 90 seconds. This fast and accurate test could save a patient’s vision and reverse the rise in AMD cases which is taking place not only in Asia but worldwide.

Addressing these rising concerns the Malaysian Society of Ophthalmology (MSO) aims to increase public attentions about the signs and symptoms of retinal diseases through a Retinal Diseases Awareness Week. The programme will begin on May 18th on the ground floor at the One Utama Shopping Centre, where the public will be offered free retinal screenings and expert advice.

More information

To discover how the MPS II could benefit your practice please visit the ophthalmic pages.

For more information on the Malaysian Society of Ophthalmology and the Retinal Diseases week please visit their Facebook page.

If you are affected by type 2 diabetes and wish to know more about combatting diabetic retinopathy visit the NHS website.

Further information about the increasing obesity problem in Malaysia, and how they are confronting it, can be found at the BBC website and The Star online.

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