(File photo)

MANILA – Cataract is one of the major causes of visual impairment among Filipinos, with 1.18 million or 1.06 percent of the population suffering from it, the Philippine Eye Research Institute (PERI) said Thursday.

In an online media forum, PERI Director Dr. Leo Cubillan noted that the figure came from the Philippine eye disease study (PEDS) on the general population and described cataract as a condition where the lens of the eye develops cloudy patches.

“Mga 393,000 lang naman ang may kailangan ng operasyon no kasi hindi naman ganoon karami ang ophthalmologist kaya pinipili rin natin. 'Yung mas malabo ang mata, 'yun ang nauunang operahan (Only 393,000 needs surgery. We don’t have many ophthalmologists [in the country] so we prioritize those with very poor eyesight for surgery),” he said.

About 423,000 individuals (0.38 percent) suffer from uncorrected error of refraction; 300,000 (0.27 percent) have glaucoma; and 223,000 (0.2 percent) struggle with maculopathy or diabetes mellitus retinopathy.

Cubillan said glaucoma is a damage of the nerve in the back of the eye due to high pressure while diabetes mellitus retinopathy is the presence of blood in the eyes due to high blood sugar level.

“There are also infections in the cornea, which also one of the top ten causes [of visual impairment among Filipinos],” he added.

Citing the PEDS 2018, Cubillan said there are 4.62 million Filipinos with little visual impairment and whose eyesight can be corrected with the wearing of appropriate eyeglasses.

Visual screening must be performed among patients who are 60 years old and above to check presence of cataract, uncorrected error of refraction, glaucoma, maculopathy, or diabetes mellitus retinopathy, he advised.

In 2019, the Department of Health said it aims to provide comprehensive eye care services, integrate eye care within local health systems, and respond to emerging eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma through the Universal Health Care law. (PNA)