Eye opening dinner in the dark 2013

Dr. Tara Mary George

Specialty in Medical Retina, Ophthalmology

Ocular motility assessment, Phacoemulsification cataract surgery, Retinal angiography, Retinal laser, Photodynamic therapy, Intravitreal injections

The Star October 30, An opportunity to dine in complete darkness proved to be an eye-opener. A group of journalist and Sunway Medical Centre (SMC) staff were recently given the chance to have the unique Dining in The Dark experience in ChangKat Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur as part of the See Diabetes Campaign.

The event aimed to highlight the risk of eye disease and blindness related to diabetes in conjunction with World Diabetes Day next month.

SunMed is championing the cause through its Let’s Take 5 campaign launched last year, with the theme “Think Diabetes”.

Its chief executive officer Tan Suet Guan said most people associated complications such as gangrene to diabetes.

She said approximately 3.6 million Malaysians are diabetic, surpassing the World Health Organisation’s estimate.

“We should not forget that the longer a person suffers from diabetes, the higher the risk of losing their vision. It is a devastating experience for a 40 or 50-year-old to become irreversibly blind,” said Tan.

According to SunMed consultant ophthalmologist Dr Tara Mary George, most diabetics and their families were unaware it could cause eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy.

“Diabetic retinopathy, if not detected early, is irreversible and can cause blindness,” she said, adding that many patients may not be aware they have it.

Symptoms include bleeding in the back of the eyes, floaters and showers of raindrops, swelling of the retina and seeing things in a distorted view.

“Statistics show that diabetes is on the rise for those aged between 20 and 40,” she said.

The number of pregnant women suffering from diabetic retinopathy is high and hormonal changes compound the problem.

If detected early, patients can control their diabetes and plan their pregnancy so it will be safer.

Most people suffering from diabetes do not get their eyes checked regularly.

“A 2007 study by the Health Ministry revealed that 55% of diabetics in government hospitals had never had an eye examination. Most people think a trip to the optician is sufficient,” said Dr Tara.

During the dinner, held in utter darkness, guests grappled with their cutlery and found it difficult to pick food from their plate.

Assisted by visually impaired waiters, guests were walked through their dishes and had an interesting experience trying to guess their meals.

Waiter Darius Nicholas Lim, 25, reminded people that it was a great challenge to live without proper vision.

“I have tried many times to hide the fact that I am partially visually impaired. We are often embarrassed to let people know our weaknesses,” said Lim, who has very little sight.

“I am neither here nor there and am stuck between two worlds, so it is hard,” he said.

One piece of advice Lim has for diabetics is to watch their diet and control their sugar intake.

SunMed will be disseminating information on eye diseases related to diabetes by organising a workshop for general practitioners and healthcare professionals on Nov 17.

There will be roadshows and free health screenings organised throughout next month, with a mega roadshow scheduled to be held at Sunway Pyramid from Nov 1 to 3.

Sources: The star