A new screening programme has been launched to help elderly Singaporeans catch an eye condition that few are aware of, but is the third most common cause of blindness among those aged over 60 here. Under a five-year programme by Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) in collaboration with Nee Soon GRC, about 5,000 residents aged 50 and above can check for Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and other eye conditions at a subsidised rate.
The initiative, Project Vision @ Nee Soon GRC, aims to raise awareness of AMD, which affects a tiny part of the retina at the back of the eye.
AMD patients have distorted or blurry central vision that may degenerate into a black spot over a period of time. People may not be aware they have the condition, as the disease does not lead to total loss of sight and is not painful.
“You won’t have any symptoms, it might just be there and you don’t know … most health screenings don’t have eye screening as part of the package, so it gets missed out but as people age and lifestyle changes, AMD is becoming more common,” said Dr Lekha Gopal from KTPH’s department of ophthalmology and visual sciences yesterday.
The hospital hopes to hold two screenings a year till 2019 in community centres within Nee Soon GRC. KTPH will charge a nominal fee of S$6, of which half will be subsidised by the constituency.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law K Shanmugam, who is also Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC, said such a collaboration is crucial to address healthy issues that arise as the Singapore society ages. “We’re ageing very fast, over the next 13 years we’re going to have nearly a million people crossing 65, health is going to become an even more important issue to focus on … we need to look at having more of such support systems,” he said.
KTPH said around 220 people underwent the first round of screening yesterday at Chong Pang Community Club.
Retiree Grace Tang, 67, cited the affordability of the screening and convenient location as her main reasons to take part. “We’re not very well off and with age catching up, it’s better to do these checks,” she said.