As the incidence of eye problems increases, it is important to get your eyes checked regularly
World Sight Day (WSD), coordinated by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), is an international day of awareness to focus attention on the global issue of eye health.
It is held annually on the second Thursday of October and this year’s WSD falls on Oct 14.
The IAPB states that nearly everyone on the planet will experience an eye health issue in their lifetime and more than a billion people worldwide do not have access to eye care services
Hence, in the efforts to create awareness of our eye health and to encourage everyone to get eyesight tests, the theme for WSD 2021 is ‘Love Your Eyes’ and the call for action is everyone counts.
WSD 2021 celebrations this year in Malaysia is helmed by Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital (HTAR) in Klang.
Get your eyes checked
Organising Chairman Dr Fazilawati A Qamaruddin, Head of the Klang Ophthalmology Department, said: “‘Love Your Eyes’ is all about being aware of your own eye health and if you are able, to get an eye examination and encourage everyone around you to ‘Love Your Eyes’ and to ensure that everyone counts.
“The objective is to create awareness for the public about eye health and also to emphasise and encourage each and every one to get an eye check.”
According to Dr Fazilawati, the incidence of eye problems has been on the increase in recent years.
“This is due to several factors. Firstly, our population numbers have increased over the years, hence more people and a higher patient load.
“Then of course life expectancy has also increased over the years, hence with old age, we get more eye diseases occurring like age related macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, among a few.
“The public awareness has improved. Information is now available freely and easily. The public are more educated now. People usually don’t wait till their eye condition is severe before seeking treatment.
“However, not all information found on the internet is correct. So, it is best for the public to go for eye screening and examination from eye care practitioners.”
What’s on for WSD 2021
The WSD 2021 Malaysia’s virtual opening ceremony, officiated by Health Deputy Director-General (Medical) Datuk Dr Asmayani Khalib, will be held on Oct 14.
The virtual opening ceremony, said Dr Fazilawati, will be aired live on YouTube and on FB which can be accessed via HTAR’s FB page, WSD FB page or HTAR’s Oftalmologi FB page.
“However, we had other programmes which started even before the opening ceremony, such as the 42km virtual run which was held from the end of June till the end of September.
“We also had all ophthalmology services in Malaysia take part in a Tik Tok and poster competition with eye related subjects. This garnered a lot of positive feedback.
“During the opening ceremony, we will be showing educational videos on common eye diseases and also announcing the winners for the Tik Tok, Poster and WSD run competitions.”
After the opening ceremony, there will be the live forum entitled ‘Sayangi Mata Anda’, which is the highlight of the WSD celebration.
“We have three speakers for the forum. They are senior Optometrist from Hospital Selayang, Farah Wahidah Hashim; Psychology lecturer from Universiti Malaya Dr Ahmad Shamsuri and myself.”
Dr Fazilawati, who is a consultant ophthalmologist with sub-specialty in Paediatric Ophthalmology, will be speaking on common eye diseases and their prevention.
Meanwhile, Farah Wahidah will be speaking on low vision aid and resources available to help the visually impaired, followed by Dr Ahmad Shamsuri, who has been visually impaired since birth and will be sharing his life experience speaking on how to cope with visual impairment.
“On top of this, we are also producing a Book on the ophthalmology services provided throughout Malaysia. The book will be freely available to the public in softcopy via our FB page.
Besides that, we also have a cataract camp which will be held from Oct 15 till Oct 22. We will be providing free lenses to these patients, chosen from the B40 category, which were generously donated by the Damansara West Rotary Club.
“And to end it all, we will be having an online eye care course on common eye diseases and management for healthcare workers from public health clinics in Selangor on Oct 25.”
More challenging during a pandemic
“The planning for this year’s WSD programme was definitely more challenging due to the Covid-19 situation.
“None of us had planned a virtual event like this. We started planning our event about one year in advance and due to the uncertain Covid-19 situation, our plans were changed several times.”
According to Dr Fazilawati, the initial plan when the Covid-19 cases were much lower was to hold a physical ceremony. But as the numbers began to rise, they had to change it to a virtual event.
“Prior to the pandemic, under normal circumstances, we would have had an eye screening included in our activities.
“This is usually one of the main events as the purpose of WSD is to reach the public. The screenings are usually carried about in public halls and will be carried out by a few eye departments across Malaysia in different places. But sadly, we were unable to do so this year.”
She also shared that the ophthalmology and optometry services in Malaysia had been affected by the pandemic.
“So, during this time, our clinic numbers were further reduced, our clinic was relocated to a smaller place and our manpower was reduced even more.
“We saw only urgent cases, and this amounted to about 30 to 40 patients a day. Those who required admission or operations were outsourced to private centres.” — The Health