Wednesday, September 27, 2023
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Imperfect vision

A group of Bruneians are inspiring awareness and hope against the silent epidemic of visual impairment – cataracts.

For many, sight is a mere ability that helps one to view and experience the world’s colours and shapes. As such, it is easily taken for granted, but what people might not realise is how easy this gift can be taken away.

One disease that can affect eyesight and jeopardise one’s ability to experience life to the fullest is cataract.

Cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens, poses significant dangers, especially to the elderly and those with underlying health conditions such as diabetes.

A medical equipment used to conduct tests on sight. PHOTO: DANIEL LIM

According to Dr Mohd Akmal Ikrami bin Haji Mohd Azmi from the Eye Centre at the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital, with age, the eye’s lens proteins begin to break down and clump together, causing the lens to
become cloudy.

This is known as a cataract and often results in blurred vision, sensitivity to light, difficulty seeing at night, and colours will seem less vibrant. In severe cases, cataract can lead to complete blindness.

During a special talk recently, the specialist noted that while many are generally aware of the dangers of blindness, many do not associate some diseases that can lead to blindness such as diabetes.

“For example, many people think that diabetes can only affect their kidneys and blood sugar levels; which while true, can also have an adverse effect on the retina as it is also receiving the same blood, and when left untreated, can lead to blindness.”

Dr Mohd Akmal Ikrami bin Haji Mohd Azmi. PHOTO: DANIEL LIM

As the prevalence of cataracts continues to rise, it becomes crucial to shed light on its impact on lives and the initiatives undertaken to raise awareness and encourage early prevention and treatment.

One such initiative was a number of roadshows by a group of students from Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) under the name ‘Permata’; in which they raised awareness on cataract and blindness, especially among senior citizens and those at risk.

Group representative Nur Izzah Insyirah binti Mohd Zin explained how the group has been travelling across the Sultanate, conducting talks as well as basic medical eye examinations among the elderly to raise awareness on the signs and dangers of cataracts which can lead to blindness.

“Having just been established in May, our group ‘Permata’ has been collaborating with the Health Promotion Centre (HPC) of the Ministry of Health to not only deliver talks but also perform medical check-ups and conduct pre- and post-surveys to raise awareness on cataract and blindness.”

Nur Izzah Insyirah said the surveys can help shed light on the general understanding of cataracts and blindness, adding that the end goal is for the community at large to understand the prevalence of cataracts in Brunei.

She noted how the disease is often referred to as the “silent epidemic” of visual impairment as it gradually steals the clarity of one’s vision.

Nur Izzah Insyirah binti Mohd Zin. PHOTO: DANIEL LIM

In disseminating knowledge on cataracts and blindness, Nur Izzah Insyirah noticed that many of the attending elderly are aware of cataracts with some having known people with cataracts or are suffering from the ailment themselves.

“We plan to compile the results we gathered from the survey, which includes the overall awareness on cataracts and blindness into a report sometime in October.

“We hope it can benefit Brunei as the report will provide a better understanding for agencies to create policies and changes that can help raise awareness on cataracts as well as to provide early intervention treatment.”

While cataracts may pose a significant threat to the elderly, those with diabetes and other risk factors, Nur Izzah Insyirah believes it is a threat that can be overcome with awareness and action.

An equipment for eye testing. PHOTO: DANIEL LIM

By raising awareness about cataracts and blindness, promoting early prevention and treatment, and supporting vision-restoring initiatives, it can ensure that the thread of sight remains vibrant in the lives of those impacted by this condition.

The collective efforts such as the roadshow conducted across the Sultanate and more, can shed a powerful light on cataracts, and illuminate a path towards a world where vision loss is minimised and quality of life is restored for all. – Daniel Lim

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