Sight for ‘sore’ eyes

2015-09-02 06:00
PHOTO: supplied

Dr Enslin Uys and his team will remove cataracts from underprivileged individuals at Netcare St Anne’s Hospital in October.

PHOTO: supplied Dr Enslin Uys and his team will remove cataracts from underprivileged individuals at Netcare St Anne’s Hospital in October.

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FOR Pietermaritzburg ophthalmologist, Dr Enslin Uys, there is nothing quite as rewarding as restoring an individual’s sight, which is exactly what he and his team will do when they remove cataracts from underprivileged individuals at Netcare St Anne’s Hospital in October.

“A patient’s excitement at having his or her vision restored after surgery to remove a cataract and replace the lens of the eye with an artificial one is truly uplifting to see,” he said.

Uys says cataracts slowly cloud an individual’s vision and may well go on to cause complete blindness if left untreated. When the lens of the eye becomes hazy as a result of a cataract it needs to be replaced. This is done by substituting the lens with an artificial one, a medical procedure that is intricate, but which can be done relatively quickly by a practised ophthalmologist.

“Cataracts rob people of their ability to do the things that enrich their lives, such as reading, cooking and watching television. Even more serious, individuals who become blind often experience difficulties in taking care of themselves and become increasingly dependent on their families and loved ones,” said Uys.

He mentioned that cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in South Africa and it has been estimated that as many as 160 000 people are currently waiting for cataract surgery in this country.

Sadly many individuals do not know what cataracts are and consequently do not seek medical assistance when they start to lose their sight.

“It is remarkable to think that a 15- minute procedure can restore the vision of cataract sufferers, allowing them to resume their daily activities and fully participate in their communities once more,” said Uys.

Eye Care Awareness Month is from 21 September to 18 October, and Uys says that patients have to meet a number of criteria before they are considered for the operation.

For example, they must not be a member of a medical aid or have the ability to fund the operation themselves. In other words, patients have to be indigent and in urgent need of the operation before they are considered candidates for the free cataract removal.

The project forms part of the Right to Sight initiative introduced by the Ophthalmic Society of South Africa to help address the backlog in cataract surgery that currently exists in the country.

Right to Sight works with the private and public sector to assist in alleviating the ongoing challenge of cataracts, and aims to make cataract procedures more accessible to South Africans.

Some years ago Uys approached the management of Netcare St Anne’s Hospital, offering his time and expertise for free and requesting the hospital to cover theatre costs for the cataract operations. Netcare St Anne’s Hospital, general manager, Louis Joubert, immediately supported the idea. The initiative has now become an annual outreach project for the hospital.

Joubert points out that the initiative would not be possible without the co-operation of the various parties concerned.

“It is a great privilege for Netcare St Anne’s Hospital and staff to be able to assist these patients and participate in this annual community outreach project. It shows what can be achieved if we come together to face the challenge posed by the cataract menace.

“South Africans need to be more aware of cataracts. Eye Care Awareness Month is an opportunity to inform the public that this condition can be successfully treated and that help is available,” said Joubert

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