Cataract triggering blindness

KATHMANDU: Even as the world is observing World Sight Day on Thursday, ophthalmologists say that despite being avoidable and curable, cataract has been the main reason behind the increasing number of blind people in the country.

The World Health Organisation marks the World Sight Day annually on the second Thursday of October to focus attention on the global issue of avoidable blindness and visual impairment. This year's slogan is 'Gender and Eye Health - equal access to care'.

Dr Sanduk Ruit, director, Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, said that the main reason behind blindness was cataract followed by injuries. He urged people for prompt treatment if they felt any type of difficulties in eyes.

Dr Sabina Shrestha, ophthalmologists at Nepal Eye Hospital seconded Ruit's assertion and said that glaucoma, blindness due to longevity, deficiency of Vitamin A in children and pregnant women, corneal scarring and injuries were also causing blindness.

She said that blindness due to longevity was increasing due to increase in life expectancy.

"Diabetic retinopathy is also developing as an emerging issue due to increasing urbanisation and change is lifestyle," she said, adding that uncorrected refractive errors and deficiency of Vitamin A in children were mainly diagnosed in children.

Dr Aditya Prasad Rijal, ophthalmologists and managing director, Nepal Eye Hospital, said that the hospital had been assisting poor people for curing cataract as well as other eye ailments. The hospital is charging around Rs 6,000 for a cataract surgery.

He said that around 65 per cent of the total cases recorded in the hospital were related to cataract.

Rijal added that they were working to meet the campaign WHO's "Vision 2020: The Right to Sight" for the elimination of avoidable blindness. The priorities for Vision 2020 are based on the facts that 75% of blindness and visual impairment occurs in poor communities of the world which is preventable and treatable as well.

According to the national population based survey of blindness in the country (1980/81), iatrogenic sequels of cataract is seen in 66.8 per cent which is followed by 5.3 per cent of retinal disorder.

The study further showed that 3.2 per cent of glaucoma, 2.8 per cent of other infection and 2.4 per cent of trachoma and 2.4 percent of trauma has been the major cause of blindness in Nepal.

Data show it all

• Approximately 314 m people worldwide live with low

vision and blindness.

• Of these, 45 m are blind and 269 m have low vision.

• Women face a significantly greater risk of vision loss than men - two-thirds of blind people worldwide are women and girls.

• In many countries, men have twice the access to eye care as women.

• 90 pc of blind people live in low-income countries.

• 80 pc of blindness is

avoidable i.e. readily

treatable or preventable.