Poor vision a major problem in Singapore
Thu, Feb 04, 2010
my paper

By Sia Ling Xin

TWO in five Indians here are suffering from low vision or blindness in at least one eye, a recent study found.

The Singapore Indian Eye Study found that the leading causes of low vision among ethnic Indians are cataracts - a layer clouding the eye lens - and undercorrected refractive errors, such as myopia and astigmatism.

Getting a suitable pair of glasses can correct low vision for about half of such sufferers, and cataracts can be easily removed through surgery, said Professor Wong Tien Yin, the director of the Singapore Eye Research Institute, who led the study.

He added: "Something to sort out this 40 per cent with low vision could be done fairly easily... There's no rocket science here that we need to do to tackle this major problem."

The situation could have resulted from people not going for regular check-ups, or hesitating to seek treatment because they are afraid of huge bills and unaware of schemes for the needy, he said.

This needs to be changed, he added.

The study was carried out between 2007 and last year on 3,400 Indians in Singapore aged 40 to 80 years.

It is the second part of a three-part study which aims to document the frequency, causes and impact of low vision and major eye diseases in the Chinese, Malay and Indian communities here.

The first part of the study, a two-year study on Malays, was started in 2004.

The last part, on the Chinese, is expected to be completed at the end of next year.

Prof Wong hopes that this study will help Singapore become a one-stop information source in providing multi-ethnic information for eye research in Asia.

Nearly 50 per cent of the Indians tested had cataracts.

And the older they were, the more likely they were to have the eye disease.

Only 16 per cent among those aged 40 to 50 had cataracts, but this figure was 98 per cent for those aged above 70.

Earlier, the study found that one in three Malays had cataracts.

Prof Wong said: "It is a big problem.

With the ageing population, we would expect the need for eye-care services and for us to tackle all these issues to be tremendous."

The study also found that one in three Indians polled is diabetic, putting them at higher risk of eye diseases.

While Indians are more prone to diabetes, a third is still an alarming proportion, Prof Wong said.

In India, only one in five suffers from diabetes, he added.

A sedentary lifestyle and Western influences resulting in diets that contain more carbohydrates and sugars could be the cause of more Indians here having diabetes, he said.

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