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Giving the gift of sight to indigent patients

Supporting cataract surgery backlog in SA during Eye Care Awareness Month

Life Healthcare, one of South Africa’s leading private hospital Group’s is launching an eye care screening programme for Eye Care Awareness Month on 14 October at an event in East London with the Eastern Cape MEC for Health in attendance and with the support of the SA National Council for the Blind (SANCB).

The programme aims to give 200 indigent Eastern Cape individuals back their sight through pro-bono cataract surgeries who could otherwise end up severely sight-impaired, or completely blind.

Screening for cataracts is important to determine who may benefit from a cataract surgery procedure which can improve and correct poor eyesight within in a matter of days. A cataract is a gradual clouding of the eye lens, leading to blurred or dull vision – surgery is the only way to treat a cataract. Selected individuals to receive the pro-bono surgery are based on the severity of their conditions which have adversely affected their quality of life.

“My sight was bad for a long time. Even before the surgery I didn’t think I would be able to see well afterwards. I am so happy that the surgery worked and I can recover so quickly to have my eye sight back,” said Nontombeko Twani who, on Monday, 11 October 2021 had a cataract procedure done.

Eye Care is a focused programme that forms part of the broader Corporate Social Investment (CSI) activities at Life Healthcare, where Eye Care Awareness and cataract surgeries are also supported through the SA Council of the Blind’s (SANCB) mobile eye units, sponsored by Life Healthcare.

Three SANCB mobile clinics with fully fitted ophthalmic equipment have been donated by Life Healthcare to SANCB over the last 15 years. These vehicles are enabled to access the more remote areas of the country and give access to much needed eye care to those who otherwise could not make it to a far-off hospital or clinic. In addition, Life Healthcare has also sponsored various cataract blitz operations in under capacitated provinces in Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

Life Healthcare’s sponsorship will ensure the following will be done in the month of October:

• Patients screened: >64 000

• Cataract surgeries: >17 000

• Spectacles issued: >15 000

• Glaucoma treatment: >1 700

• Other eye conditions: > 12 000

Can cataract be prevented or treated?

  • As with many other eye conditions, the effects of cataract can be slowed down and reversed with early detection and a comprehensive eye exam is necessary at least once every two years.
  • Good nutrition, eating foods rich in antioxidants, can help slow the progress of cataract.
  • Wearing sun protection (like sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat) whilst in the sun can prevent future development of cataract.

Who gets cataracts?

  • Most cataracts are age-related. In South Africa, there is an almost 60% chance that a person will develop a cataract after reaching the age of 60. 1
  • About 350 000 South Africans need cataract operations, of whom eight out of 10 live in rural areas. 2
  • Some conditions or lifestyle choices, such as diabetes, smoking, alcohol use and prolonged exposure to sunlight, can increase the risk of developing cataracts.

References:

1 & 2: Mail & Guardian, A clear vision of better care – The Mail & Guardian (mg.co.za), 26 Apr 2012

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