By Por Jia Yee Davina, Optometrist, International Eye Cataract Retina Centre, Singapore

Professor Datuk Dr Rokiah Hj Omar, Director at the University Community Transformation Centre at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, was a guest speaker at the Singapore Primary Eye Care Symposium (SPECS) 2018 in One Farrer Hotel held on 18-19 July 2018. One of her lectures was on “Rehabilitation of the Visually Impaired – The 3Ws”. She covered the “what”, “when” and “why” (3Ws) of visual rehabilitation.

An individual with low vision, Prof Rokiah said, has either a best-corrected visual acuity of 6/18 to 6/30 or a visual field of less than 20 degrees in the better eye. The most common causes of visual impairment are cataract, refractive errors and diabetic retinopathy. A number of studies have shown that an individual with low vision has a lower quality of life. To help such individuals, rehabilitation through training or therapy can help them return to a more normal life or to better adapt to their condition.

Low vision rehabilitation requires a multidisciplinary team of healthcare providers including opticians, optometrists, ophthalmologists and social welfare officers. Optometrists can help by dispensing low vision aids such as magnifiers and providing patient counselling.

Prof Rokiah shared some of the challenges that low vision patients face. For example, daily activities like driving, reading, watching television or even walking are more challenging when the vision is affected. To help with reading or close work activities, brighter illumination can allow patients to see clearer. Prof Rokiah also highlighted the importance of family and work colleagues support to help build the patient’s confidence and improve his mental health.

Prof Rokiah emphasized that low vision patients can almost always be rehabilitated. In this regard, opticians and optometrists can help to counsel low vision patients appropriately and motivate them so as to achieve greater success from the rehabilitation.