According to the latest statistics released by the International Diabetes Federation, of an adult population of 33 million people, a staggering 1.8 million adults were diagnosed with diabetes in South Africa.

On Thursday, 160 patients received the gift of sight, following miracle-working surgery performed by various ophthalmologists from the Eye Institute. The operations were performed as part of their Unclouding Cataracts campaign, which sees the institute, its specialists and other participating organisations doing free cataract removal surgery.

The Eye Institute has operated on over 3 000 patients as part of the Unclouding Cataracts campaign.

Maryke Lotz, the Eye Institute’s marketing and communication manager says “For us at the Institute, and the many other people who help make this possible, sight is the ultimate gift that keeps on giving. Year after year, operation after operation, we are humbled by the enormous difference that this relatively small procedure makes in people’s lives.”

Lotz points out that the impact of cataracts often extends beyond the trauma of lost sight: “Small children’s motor development is delayed, people lose their jobs as a result of losing their ability to see, and solutions are delayed by a lack of medical aid and/or dwindling funds. The consequences of cataracts are endless, impacting not only the sufferers, but those around them, and that is one of the reasons why each individual story and the challenges behind each operation continue to inspire us on to even greater things.”

Dr Moodley, one of the ophthalmologists from the Eye Institute says they currently have a waiting list of 500 patients that is growing daily. “This may sound like a source of concern, which it is, but above all, it motivates and inspires us and many other stakeholders to try even harder to keep on giving the gift of sight,” she concludes.

Unpacking the causes of cataracts

Cataracts are formed by the clouding of the normally transparent crystalline lens in the eye, causing blurry vision.

Its causes cover a wide spectrum, including:

The following are the most common eye diseases that could affect children:

  • Congenital, including genetic diseases
  • Inflammation due to eye disease
  • Intra uterine infection and ocular anomalies
  • Lifestyle factors such as aging, smoking and diabetes
  • Toxins such as steroids
  • Trauma
  • UV exposure