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.

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