By Bernice Phua Rui Yi, Optometrist, International Eye Cataract Retina Centre, Singapore

Professor Datuk Dr Rokiah Hj Omar, Director at the University Community Transformation Centre at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, highlighted the importance of incorporating low vision services in vision care at the Singapore Primary Eye Care Symposium (SPECS) 2018 in One Farrer Hotel held on 18-19 July 2018. Her lecture was titled “Low Vision Services – Why We Need to Incorporate It in Vision Care”.

The term “low vision” indicates impaired functioning vision with a visual acuity worse than 6/18 or a visual field of less than 10 degree from the point of fixation that cannot be improved by refractive correction options such as spectacles and contact lenses or surgery. Such individuals are usually visually impaired due to underlying eye diseases.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the visually impaired are at a higher risk of being unemployed, suffer from mental illnesses such as depression, and are more likely to meet with accidents (eg, vehicle collision or falling while walking). The WHO noted that “81% of the visual impairment could have been avoided if diagnosed and treated early” and, for this reason, preventive regular eye checks in the population is strongly encouraged.

Prof Rokiah raised the issue of the neglect of low vision care in developing countries. This could be due to the lack of awareness and training of primary eye care professionals, the high cost of low vision aids or the absence of a holistic outlook by care takers.

Low vision care can offer a range of benefits including reducing functional vision loss, maintaining an individual’s independence to carry out his daily activities, facilitating a child’s academic growth and development as well as an overall improvement in the quality of life.

As the population ages, the number of visually impaired will continue to raise. Prof Rokiah highlighted possible actions that can be taken to address this. For example, the government can advocate the importance of low vision care, low vision aids can be made more affordable, and greater resources and training should be made available.

Prof Rokiah concluded her lecture by emphasizing that low vision services are holistic approaches that not only improve the individual’s quality of life but also increase productivity for the family, community and country.