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Risk Factors for Visual Impairment


National Eye Survey done in Malaysia in 1996 shows that the prevalence of bilateral blindness was 0.29 % and low vision was 2.4 %.

The study also shows that the prevalence of blindness in children was 0.05 % and increases to 4.77 % in the elderly age 70 years and above.

The occurrence of low vision also increases significantly among the elderly age 70 years and above.

Among the common causes for blindness and low vision are cataract, refractive error, retinal diseases, glaucoma and corneal diseases. Most of the causes for visual impairment were avoidable and easily treatable in Malaysia.

Certain conditions that cause visual impairment are associated with specific risk- factors. Identification of risk- factors during screening for visual impairment assists in the early prevention and detection of diseases.

What are the risk factors for visual impairment?

Risk -factors for visual impairment varies according to the specific eye disorder. Some of the common eye disorders are as follow:


Presbyopia is a condition caused by the natural course of aging. It occurs when the eye has diminished ability to focus on near objects.

Early symptoms of presbyopia were eye strain, difficulty seeing in dim light and problems reading fine prints.

Risk factors for Presbyopia

  • Hyperopia (long sightedness)
  • Females
  • Ocular trauma
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Drugs: Alcohol, anti- depressants, anti- histamines
  • Higher temperature and exposure to ultraviolet radiation


Cataract occurs when the lens inside the eye becomes opaque, thus blocking light from focusing onto the retina. Symptoms of cataract include blurred vision. Patient will have difficulty driving at night due to light glare.

Risk- factors for cataract:

  • Age – more than 50 % of the elderly age 70 years and above suffers from cataract
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Trauma
  • Family history
  • Exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet radiation
  • Steroid therapy
  • Uveitis


Glaucoma occurs when the pressure inside the eyeball increases. Patient will present with reduced peripheral vision. In closed angle glaucoma, patient will experience severe eye pain, red eye, nausea and headache.

Risk- factors for glaucoma:

  • High Hyperopia (long sightedness)
  • High Myopia (shortsightedness)
  • History of ocular trauma
  • History of uveitis
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • Long- term steroid therapy

What should you do if you have any of the risk- factor?

You are encouraged to go for a visual screening and comprehensive eye examination on a regular
Basis, preferably annually.

If you suffer from diabetes mellitus, you must have visual screening and eye examination upon diagnosis and annually. Diabetes mellitus can cause retinal disease which can be prevented if treated early. Even when you have established retinal damage upon screening, treatment can be offered to delay or stop further damage.

Where can I have the visual screening done?

Visual screening is offered in public and private health clinics. You may also get your screening done at any outlet that have optometry services. You may need to bring your glasses along to help in the assessment.


  1. K.Y Loh, J. Ogle Age Related Visual Impairment in Elderly Med J Malaysia Vol 59 No 4 Okt 2004
  2. M Zainal, SM Ismail, AR Ropilah, H Elias, G Arumugam, D Alias, J Fathilah Prevalence of blindness    and low vision in Malysia population: results from the National Eye Survey 1996 Br J Ophthalmol 2002: 86: 951 – 956.
  3. BE Klein, Klein R, Lee KE: Incidence in age- related cataract: The Beaver Dam Eye Study Arch Ophthalmol 1998 Feb; 116(2): 219- 25
Last Review : 16 July 2013
Writer : Dr. Radziah binti Abd. Rashid