cataract WHOMore than 60 percent of all blindness in South Africa is caused by cataracts, a condition in which the lens of the eye becomes clouded and vision is imparied. The North West’s Klerksdorp Hospital is hoping to have performed 1,000 cataract operations by the end of 2013 and has assured the community that these operations are safe and relatively painless.

According to hospital spokesperson Nico Masiu, the facility performs an average of 60 cataract operations per month, but fear is keeping some patients in need of surgery away.

“The thing is we don’t fully understand cataract, so we find it hard to trust the operation as nobody wants to loose their eye sight,” said Tumelo Setsetse from the Jacaranda settlement outside Klerksdorp.

Masiu said that the operations are not only effective but also safe.

“Cataract operations are one of the world’s most common operations,” he told OurHealth. “They’re also safe and effective with about 90 percent of patients reporting better vision afterwards.”

Letlhogonolo Mongae recently underwent the surgery and said that while fear is understandable, it shouldn’t get in the way of better sight.

“Anyone facing cataract surgery has nothing to fear, but sometimes people are frighten at the though of having anything done to their eyes,” he said.

“The hospital guarantees patients and communities… that a cataract operation is safe, quick and may be less painful than living with the condition,” Masiu added. “Above all, there is a 100 percent success rate with no complications.”

While cataracts can develop with age, smoking or exposure to the sun can increase a person’s risk of developing the condition, according to the South African National Council for the Blind (SANCB).

Cataract operations can be performed with local anaesthetic and take about 30 minutes, after which a patient can be discharged and sent home the same day.

According to SANCB, there is a large backlog of patients waiting for these types of surgeries in South Africa and about 10,000 new patients are added to the list each year.