40 per cent increase in diabetic retinopathy cases: Brunei Minister

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (Borneo Bulletin/ ANN) - Diabetics account for around half of all eye patients in the country, according to Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohammad Isham bin Haji Jaafar, who added that the number of patients with eye health problems is expected to increase every year.

Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohammad Isham was speaking during the World Sight Day celebration during Bandarku Ceria yesterday morning.

The minister explained further, “In Brunei Darussalam, around 50 per cent of patients who received treatments in eye clinics were diabetic patients. In 2017 alone, statistics show that of the number of patients who sought eye treatment in clinics is around 25,000 patients and over 40 per cent were for diabetic retinopathy inspections or sought treatment for eye diseases caused by diabetes.”

“The number of total diabetic retinopathy inspection cases has also increased by 40 per cent in the past three years, up from 7,700 in 2014 to 11,000 in 2017.”

The minister continued, “Seeing that the number of people suffering from diabetes is expected to increase by 40 per cent by 2030, the number of people with eye health problems is also expected to increase from year to year.”

He  added however that if problems are identified early, and treatment administered in time and follow-ups done accordingly, the risk of loss of eyesight can be reduced by 95 per cent.

Because of this, the minister said it is crucial for people to be fully aware of how important it is for them to attend their doctor appointments for routine and follow-up medical inspections.

“If a patient misses a scheduled appointment, the patient is at risk of making the problem worse,” Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohammad Isham said. “For medical examinations involving children, eye problems such as refractive errors or amblyopia, if not detected much earlier, can result in permanent damage to the eye. Thus, family members play a key role in terms of ensuring the children fulfil their doctor’s appointments and follow the doctor’s advices such as wearing glasses or eye patches.”

The minister advised people at high risk of contracting diabetes to adopt healthy diets and consume less sugar.

“These high-risk individuals must understand the importance of making healthy choices in their daily intake of food and drinks. Other than that, making time to exercise, at least 30 minutes a day and five times a week, can go a long way in maintaining the overall body health,” he said.

“This year’s theme for the World Sight Day celebrations, ‘Eyecare Everywhere’, is certainly apt for Brunei. His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s Government through the Ministry of Health provides eye healthcare services which are available throughout all of the country’s four hospitals as well as health centres.

“The national Eye Centre at Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha Hospital is a main reference centre which receives some 20,000 patients a year, for critical cases or cases that require immediate treatment. Basic eye treatment in other hospitals can be obtained at Pengiran Muda Mahkota Pengiran Muda Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah Hospital in Tutong District and Suri Seri Begawan Hospital in Kuala Belait.”

The minister continued, “In the Brunei-Muara District, most eye patients seek treatment at community eye clinics at health centres such as the Berakas Health Centre, Pengiran Anak Puteri Hajah Muta-Wakkilah Hayatul Bolkiah Health Centre in Gadong, and Jubli Perak Health Centre in Sengkurong.

“In Temburong, eye treatment services can be obtained at Pengiran Isteri Hajjah Mariam Hospital. All these treatment points demonstrate the attention given by His Majesty in streamlining the country’s health services, especially eye health services, to cater to the needs of citizens and residents of Brunei Darussalam.”

The minister added that the achievements of the ministry today could not have been possible without the increase in the number of well-educated, experienced and highly skilled health professionals, including medical officers, nurses and allied health professionals.

“This is also one of the aspects in universal health coverage (UHC) in this country, where we’ve seen an increase in services and expertise in the country, and the reduction of patients sent overseas for treatment. It’s worth noting too, that the number of professionals in the eye healthcare field has increased in the last five years with the addition of four ophthalmologists as well as two local experts and five optometrists – a significant improvement when compared to the number of professionals in 2012,” he added.