Sight restored to the blind

2016-09-14 06:00
WHEN a person has sight-problems due to cataracts, it can be restored.

WHEN a person has sight-problems due to cataracts, it can be restored.

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GRACE KOCK (61) from Hopetown could not wait to return home to do her laundy and inspect the work of her hands on her return home.

She was so proud to have regained her eyesight completely after her cataract operation and was also eager to see her friends and family, whom she could lately only recognised through the sound of their voices.

Kock could not stop raving about how she could not wait to see her husband’s face, who came to drop her off at the Kimberley Hospital for her eye operation.

“He is the one who brought me here because I could not walk alone and had to be led by people. Now I cannot wait to see his face when he sees me arriving home without having to be led.”

Kock was amongst the 97 grateful eye patients who benefitted from the cataract marathon performed by the Ophthalmology Unit at the Kimberley Hospital from 5 to 9 September.

She spent the whole week at the hospital as both eyes had to be operated on in order for her vision to be restored.

The initiative was part of the National Development Plan and the Medium Term Strategic Framework 2014 to 2019 to ensure a long and healthy life for all South Africans.

According to the Northern Cape Departement of Health, the marathon 2016 was aimed at the poor and most vulnerable to alleviate the burden of cataracts affecting patients in the province.

Led by ophthalmologists, Drs J.C. Maartens, K. Hornby and E. Janse van Rensburg and a team of medical officers working in ophthalmology, the marathon was made possible by donations from companies in that field, namely Earth Medical, Genop, Allergan and Alcon.

Friendly nursing staff in the eye clinic assisted with pre- and post-operative care of patients who were pre-screened and were from Kimberley, Springbok and the Prof. ZK Matthews and Dr Harry Surtie hospitals, to identify beneficiaries.

According to a statement from the departement, cataracts occur when changes in the lens of the eye cause it to become less transparent or less clear. This results in cloudy or misty vision.

“Cataracts sometimes start to develop in a person’s lens as they get older, stopping some of the light from reaching the back of the eye. Over time, cataracts become worse and start to affect vision.

“Eventually, surgery will be needed to remove and replace the affected lens,” the statement reads.

One of the patients in the long queue was Helena Strydom (68) from Hartswater, who called ExpressNorthern Cape just to express her gratitude towards the ophthalmologists.

She said: “They are ama-zing, I can’t find the right words to thank them. Do you know how these people work?

“If it was not for them I wonder what the world would be like.”

She revealed that she has been wearing glasses for 58 years and has waited for over a year to get a surgery appointment.

“They treat everyone of their patients here with such care and dignity. They really deserve to be credited for their hard work.”

“I spent a week here and will never forget how excited I was after the bandage was removed from my first operated eye.”

The department urges community members to make an appointment to see an optician, also known as an optometrist, if they have problems with their vision.

Cataracts are also described as not being painful and non-irritable to one’s eyes, nor do they make it red.

As the exact cause of age-related cataracts is not clear, there is no known way to prevent them from develo-ping.

Surgery is the only type of treatment that has proven to be effective for cataracts.

“It is usually recommended if loss of vision has a significant effect on your daily activities, such as driving or reading. Cataract surgery involves removing the cloudy lens through a small incision in your eye and replacing it with a clear, plastic one.”

The elderly and the most vulnerable to the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality, are mostly affected, hence the marathon attempt to assist.

Cataracts may affect your sight in the following ways:

  • if you find it difficult to see in dim or very bright light;
  • if the glare from bright lights are dazzling or uncomfortable to look at;
  • if colours look faded or less clear;
  • if everything has a yellow or brown tinge;
  • if you have double vision;
  • if you see a halo (a circle of light) around bright lights, such as car headlights or street lights;
  • if you wear glasses, you may find that they become less effective over time.

You can be at risk of developing cataracts if:

  • you have a family history of cataracts;
  • you suffer from diabetes mellitus;
  • you have other eye conditions, such as long-term eye inflammation (uveitis);
  • you had eye surgery or an eye injury;
  • you are taking a high dose of corticosteroid medication, or taking corticosteroids for a prolonged period of time.

Other factors that may be linked to the development of cataracts include:

  • smoking;
  • regularly drinking excessive amounts of alcohol;
  • a poor diet lacking in vitamins;
  • lifelong exposure to sunlight.

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