Encouraging Cataract Awareness in the Community: Cataract Awareness Month 2023

Cataracts Awareness Month 2023: Unoperated cataract is the leading cause for avoidable blindness in India

Cataract begins with some difficulty in seeing clearly for distance but may soon affect all aspects of daily living

Cataracts affect millions of people worldwide, emphasizing the importance of knowledge for prevention and treatment. It is important to recognize that cloudy or blurred vision, faded colors, and difficulty seeing at night are signs of a developing cataract.

According to Dr. Sandeep Buttan, Technical Lead at Eye Health & Health System Strengthening, Sightsavers India, cataract formation is caused by age-related changes in the lens of the eyes, resulting in gradual vision reduction. It initially affects distance vision, but can eventually impact all aspects of daily life. Cataracts may affect the eyes asymmetrically, leading individuals to believe that they have good vision even when one eye has a significant cataract and the other eye is less advanced.

Dr. Buttan further explains that unoperated cataracts are the leading cause of avoidable blindness in India. While cataracts can affect anyone, they are more commonly seen in the elderly population (50 years and above). Women and marginalized groups may remain blinded unnecessarily due to a lack of access to services and low levels of awareness.

Points to Ponder

  1. Several factors that may increase the chances of developing cataracts have been identified, including smoking, uncontrolled diabetes, prolonged exposure to sunlight, and certain medications (steroids, etc.).
  2. Cataract surgery can restore lost vision in the majority of cases if performed in a timely manner.

Barriers to Uptake of Care

  1. Lack of awareness of the progression pattern: Many individuals do not seek treatment until their cataracts have significantly worsened. However, with advancements in microsurgical techniques, there is no need to wait for the cataract to fully mature. Early surgery is recommended.
  2. Fear of surgery: Negative experiences of community members may discourage others from seeking treatment. However, when performed by experienced surgeons in standard setups, cataract surgery is highly effective and completely safe.
  3. Women may require someone to accompany them to access and receive treatment. The surgery can often be performed as a daycare procedure or require a maximum of one day’s admission.
  4. Financial barriers: The direct or indirect costs of care may be unaffordable for individuals or families. Many are unaware of various government schemes, such as Ayushman Bharat and other state-supported health insurance programs, which offer free surgeries at high-quality hospitals.

Let’s encourage regular eye exams for early detection and share information within our communities. Organizing educational events and emphasizing the importance of eye health can make a significant impact. Additionally, encouraging loved ones to protect their eyes from harmful UV rays with sunglasses and hats is crucial. Remember, early intervention can restore sight and transform lives. By raising community awareness, we can ensure a brighter future for those affected by cataracts.

 

Reference

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