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The world looks brighter with better eyesight

Good eyesight can help improve the quality of life for seniors, and allow them to live life actively.

The world looks brighter with better eyesight

The elderly can enjoy good vision with proper help, said Dr Kelvin Teo, a consultant in the Medical Retina Department and the research clinic director at the Singapore Eye Research Institute. Photos: Shutterstock, SNEC

Good eyesight can help improve the quality of life for seniors, and allow them to live life actively.

With old age comes poor vision – a common belief in Singapore, where a large proportion of the population are above the age of 60. But this is a misconception, according to Dr Kelvin Teo, a consultant in the Medical Retina Department and the research clinic director at the Singapore Eye Research Institute.

“With the proper help and therapy, the elderly can also enjoy good vision – as good as when they were young,” said Dr Teo, who treats age-related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy and retinal vascular disorders.

SEEING THE SIGNS OF AGE-RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION

As is the case with other developed countries, the most common ophthalmological conditions in Singapore are cataract, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). These conditions tend to affect the elderly, and Singapore’s ageing population is thus more likely to be affected. In addition, diabetic eye disease is also common in Singapore due to our high rate of diabetes.

While cataract and glaucoma are familiar conditions to the elderly, few are aware of AMD. Many elderly people with worsening eyesight attribute their poor vision to age or less serious conditions, like cataract.

Dr Teo said that the symptoms of AMD are very different from those of cataract. “In AMD, patients often perceive a distortion in their vision, rather than a generalised blurring of vision. This is a tell-tale sign of the onset of advanced wet AMD and requires early attention by an eye specialist.”

Advanced wet AMD is named as such because it is caused by abnormal blood vessels that leak blood or fluid into the macula, a part of the eye’s retina. Early AMD, which is more common, is a less severe form that is caused by the ageing of the macula over time.

ENVISIONING A BETTER QUALITY OF LIFE

 

An artist's impression of how age-related macular degeneration can adversely affect a person's vision (right).
 

 

In Dr Teo’s experience, wet AMD can be effectively treated b eye injections, which reduce the bleeding and leakage to prevent vision loss in most patients and for some, may even result in improved vision.

“The procedure is quick and relatively painless, as the injections are given with a tiny needle and the eye is numbed beforehand,” he explained.

Still, many patients remain fearful of perceived discomfort. Patients also have difficulty maintaining their treatment schedule, as the condition requires repeated injections, sometimes as frequently as once a month. Others may need to undergo treatment for life to control AMD.

Dr Teo emphasised that the difficulty of adhering to an intensive treatment schedule should not put patients off from seeking help.

“Poor vision will impact all aspects of a person’s quality of life, ranging from basic functions to the inability to do things one enjoys. In addition, mobility can be severely restricted. Poor vision can lead to falls, which can then lead to a rapid decline in one’s overall health.”

SINGAPORE NATIONAL EYE CENTRE

Treatment for AMD and other eye conditions can be easily accessed at the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), which spearheads and coordinates the provision of specialised ophthalmological services, with an emphasis on quality education and research.

The SNEC has a faculty of close to 80 ophthalmologists and offers 10 major subspecialties, including cataract and comprehensive ophthalmology, corneal and external eye disease, glaucoma, and neuro-ophthalmology.

SNEC also has its own Myopia Centre, and its scientists and clinicians have collaborated with the Singapore Eye Research Institute to develop special eye drops that aim to control the progression of childhood myopia.

Whatever one’s age, good vision is key to leading a fulfilling and active life. According to Dr Teo, having good visual function enables us to perform basic activities like walking or driving, as well as pursue enjoyment in the form of exercise, reading, watching television or even recognising loved ones’ faces. Eye conditions should not be allowed to take away our ability to function, or to enjoy simple pleasures.

Said Dr Teo: “It is a myth that one will lose vision in old age, and with today’s advancements in care, many of these conditions are treatable – but only if detected and treated in a timely manner.”

To find out more about common eye conditions and other eye-related information, visit snec.com.sg.

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