HELP FOR PEOPLE WITH CATARACT
WHEN Pinky Matlou was told she needed a cataract operation, she braced herself for a long wait.
It was back in 2012 when she felt a pinch in her eye and went straight to the hospital. Tests were done and medical staff eventually told her she had cataracts in both eyes, but more acutely in the right one.
She became irritable as her blurred vision affected her cooking and knitting.
Yesterday, the 67-year-old underwent the 20-minute intervention for which she had waited over five years. She was relieved almost immediately when she realised the dizziness she had been suffering from was now an ailment of the past.
There was light at the end of the tunnel for her and more than 45 other people with cataracts over their eyes when Kalafong Tertiary Hospital doctors performed a series of successful operations.
The ophthalmologists treated the mainly older women as part of the hospital’s initiative to commemorate Eye Care Awareness Week.
“It was scary to have instruments in my eye, but the procedure is painless. The surgery takes only 20 minutes, and I got my sight back in a day,” Matlou said.
Matlou was among the many to benefit from an arrangement between the hospital and sponsors to tackle the backlog on the long waiting list..
Describing life before the operation, Matlou said her vision had often become clouded and she would blame her spectacles, discarding them in frustration and worry.
A cataract is the clouding of the lens of the eye, which impedes the passage of light.
Most cataracts are related to ageing, although occasionally children may be born with the condition. Cataracts may also develop after an injury, inflammation or disease.
The head of the department of ophthalmology at Kalafong, Dr Sumaya Carrim, said cataracts were the leading cause of reversible blindness worldwide.
She said cataract removal was the most common surgery performed.
“People with cataracts live in discomfort, often waiting more than three months before seeking treatment,” said Carrim.
She said the delays were often due to lack of understanding of cataracts and treatment options.
Carrim said cataracts were the most common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 40, and the principal cause of blindness in the world. “In fact, there are more cases of cataracts worldwide than there are of glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy all put together.”
The World Health Organisation points out diabetes, prolonged exposure to sunlight, and use of tobacco and alcohol as potential causes.
More than 6 million people are affected by cataract blindness in sub-Saharan Africa. There are currently 217 000 patients awaiting cataract surgery in South Africa, 35 000 of them from Gauteng.
Doctors at Kalafong Tertiary Hospital huddle around a patient affected by a cataract for a 20-minute procedure to restore her sight in the right eye.