Cataract leading cause of blindness in Belait elderly

National 2 minutes, 49 seconds


CATARACT has been the leading cause of blindness cases at Suri Seri Begawan Hospital (SSBH) in Kuala Belait for the past seven years, according to its ophthalmologist.

Dr Hj Azimuddin Azim Siraj, a consultant at SSBH's eye clinic, told The Brunei Times yesterday that 49 out of 115 cases of blindness recorded from 2008 to August 2015 were due to cataracts, many which were successfully treated with surgery.

“Although cataracts are the leading cause of blindness, it is a condition that can be fixed by replacing the lens of the eye,” he said after a talk delivered by SSBH's eye clinic to senior citizens.

A cataract is the clouding of the eyes' lens; causing light to scatter as it passes through the lens, preventing a clearly defined image from reaching the retina.

The condition is usually developed in both eyes, but not necessarily in a symmetrical fashion – a cataract in one eye may be more advanced than the other.

Increasing age and injury to the eye have been singled out as the most likely causes of cataracts, but no studies have proven how to prevent or slow its progression.

“Surgery is the fastest and most effective route. The cloudy lens is removed, replaced with an artificial one. SSBH is equipped with the latest technical equipment and expertise needed to perform the procedure,” he said.

Restoring vision is more complex when blindness is caused by glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which rank as the third and fourth respective causes of losing sight.

Dr Hj Azimuddin said age-related macular degeneration could neither be cured nor reversed, but the degeneration can be slowed down and procedures are available to improve sight under certain circumstances.

“There are two types (of AMD); wet and dry. Dry, the most common form, take places when there is a thinning of the macula, a small area in the retina responsible for central vision.

“Wet, usually more severe, is when blood vessels grow, under the retina in the back of the eye, leaking blood and fluid,” he said.

Drugs are available to help stop the growth of new blood vessels, but for dry AMD, treatment options are limited to taking in antioxidants, but these have yet to be proven to have a direct remedial effect in clinical trials.

The ophthalmologist added that vision loss due to glaucoma is the most severe as it cannot be recovered, and made more dangerous since its most common form of the condition has no warning signs.

“Any impairment to vision and the public should seek their nearest clinic or in an emergency the hospital. But the public are encouraged to have regular eye exams,” he said, noting that hospitals in all four districts have an eye clinic.

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, usually by abnormally high pressure in the eye. If recognised early, vision loss can be slowed or prevented.

Besides regular eye check-ups, Dr Hj Azimuddin preaches a healthy lifestyle to lower the risk and potential harm caused by eye diseases.

“With the exception of diabetes, most of the causes for loss of vision are not directly related to say eating certain unhealthy foods or not exercising.

“But doing regular exercise and having a balanced diet can lower certain risk factors, and holistically you are benefitting your whole body as well as safeguarding yourself from many other diseases,” he added.

The Brunei Times