KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 26 — Registered patients with eye diseases at public health facilities in Malaysia decreased significantly in the first half of 2020, due to reduced hospital visits amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The number of registered patients at Ministry of Health (MOH) hospitals with cataracts saw a drop of 71.27 per cent in the first seven months of 2020 compared to the full year of 2019. Cataracts are the clouding of the usually clear lens of one’s eye, causing clouded vision.
Glaucoma patients who visited public hospitals this year decreased to 1,388, or a drop of 97.65 per cent from January to July, compared to the full year of 2019. Glaucoma, which damages the optic nerve, is one of the leading causes of blindness for people aged over 60.
Diabetic retinopathy is a diabetes complication caused by damage in the blood vessels of light-sensitive tissue at the retina, which can eventually cause blindness after first causing no symptoms or only mild vision issues. The number of registered patients at MOH hospitals with this disease experienced a fall of 72.3 per cent compared to 2019.
“The overall data for the year 2020 shows a rather significant decline in patients caused by a drop in patient visits to hospitals because of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Health Minister Dr Adham Baba mentioned in a written parliament reply on November 9 to Sungai Siput MP Kesavan Subramaniam.
Kesavan had asked MOH to state the registered number of patients with eye diseases like cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy in public hospitals in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
“A study in 2020 showed that the population of Malaysia is expected to reach 33.7 million, of which 3.8 million (11.8%) are senior citizens. Eye disease often occurs among the elderly,” Kesavan stated in his question to MOH.
Dr Adham replied: “Eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy can also occur among young people, especially those who have diabetes mellitus.”
Besides eye disease, experts warned that a prolonged lockdown may increase fatalities among cancer and diabetic patients during the Covid-19 pandemic after delaying treatment.