Retinal Diseases Awareness Week 2013


Retinal Diseases Awareness Week 2013

It's not unusual for me to get blank stares from my patients when I tell them I am a Retinal Specialist. "Come again!" or "What's that?" or "What do you mean?" are common responses I receive. Most often however, they just have a quizzical look on their faces and wait politely for me to elaborate further.

What is the Retina?

The retina is likened to the 'film of a camera' whereby light from the object of interest is received. In reality, the retina has many layers and it is a very metabolically active tissue where cells are constantly at work to convert the light that falls onto it, into electrical signals which are interpreted in the brain. That is how we "SEE"!



What Retinal Diseases can affect the eye?

There are many retinal conditions which can cause visual disturbance or even blindness. Examples include age related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachment, retinal vein occlusions, macular hole, epiretinal membranes, etc ...... Just to name a few!

Diseases of the retina can have far reaching consequences and usually will require prompt and precise treatment in order to prevent blindness. Looking at a survey which was done in Malaysia, retinal diseases account for 25% of blindness and visual impairment!

The leading cause of blindness in developed nations is age related macular degeneration and in Malaysia, this is fast becoming a significant entity. Moreover, in the Asian population, a sub group of macular degeneration called polyploidal choroidal vasculopathy is more common and more difficult to treat.

AMD is a disease which affects people above the age of 50 years. The disease primarily affects the macular area and can be attributed to the accumulation of waste material in this area causing a loss of central vision. It can be divided into a "dry" or "wet" form; dry AMD is the more common and is slowly progressive whereby central vision is affected gradually. Wet AMD is less common but has more devastating effects as it results from sudden onset of bleeding from abnormal blood vessel(s). Early detection is key in wet AMD as treatment involves injections into the eye of a specific type of medicine which can halt the bleeding process and stabilize vision.

Loss of central vision in AMD

Normal retinal appearance

Dry AMD - Yellowish deposits of waste material

Wet AMD - severe bleeding at the macular



Another rising epidemic amongst Malaysians is the prevalence of Diabetes whereby more and more of us are becoming diabetic! The leading cause of blindness in the working age group is Diabetic Retinopathy! Another shocking statistic shows that the number of people with diabetes is on such a steep upward trend, that possibly 1 in 5 Malaysians over the age of 30 will have diabetes!

Diabetics are more prone to eye diseases such as cataract, glaucoma and more specific to this disease, diabetic retinopathy. Retinopathy refers to the presence of bleeding or leakage from the blood vessels in the retina. This occurs as a result of the excessive "sugar levels" in the blood which causes damage to the blood vessel walls. With uncontrolled bleeding, this can lead to progressive scarring, retinal detachment and eventually, blindness!

Leakage of proteins and blood at the macular area in diabetes

Scar tissue and retinal detachment in advanced diabetic retinopathy

Patchy visual loss when bleeding occurs in diabetic retinopathy

The major problem we have in Malaysia is the poor awareness amongst our public about health care in general and even more so about eye care. Often times, individuals present themselves too late to the retinal doctor and visual impairment and blindness becomes an inevitability. It is a constant struggle we face and more efforts have to be channeled towards increasing awareness amongst the public so that blindness can be prevented.

Retinal Diseases Awareness Week 2013

For the first time in Malaysia, with the support of the Malaysian Society of Ophthalmology, the Malaysian Medical Association Foundation Fund, National Council for the Blind and AMD Alliance International together with many generous sponsors from the ophthalmic industry as well as the media and other industries, a nationwide awareness week has been organized to commence on 18th May 2013 and finishing on 25/5/13.

The objective of this awareness week is exactly as its name suggests - to increase the awareness of the public with regards to retinal diseases specifically AMD and Diabetic Retinopathy. Events will kick off on 18/5/13 at 1Utama Shopping Centre, Petaling Jaya where there will be public talks, games and family activities throughout the weekend. There will also be similar activities taking place at different eye centre's throughout the country.

At Lee Eye Centre, we will be providing FREE eye assessment from 20/5/13 to 24/5/13. The focus will be on identifying retinal diseases and FREE digital retinal photography will also be provided. In order to safeguard the most precious of your five senses, please take this opportunity to visit us for an eye assessment as prevention is always better than cure.