Cataract : India has the world’s highest proportion of blind people

About 81% of blindness or visual impairment occurs in those above the age of 50...

New Delhi, Janary 2, 2018: India has the world’s highest proportion of blind people, about 12 million, and is home to a third of the world’s blind population. About 81% of blindness or visual impairment occurs in those above the age of 50. Among the various factors for blindness, cataracts form the single-largest factor. They account for about 63% of the total burden of vision impairment in the country.[1] There are nearly 10 million people in need of cataract surgery in India.

What is cataract

A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear eye lens. The vision through cloudy lenses resembles looking through a frosty or fogged-up window. Clouded vision caused by cataracts can make it more difficult to read, drive a car (especially at night) or see the expression on a friend’s face. It can eventually lead to blindness if not treated on time.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Immediate Past National President Indian Medical Association (IMA), said,

“With age, the eye lenses become less flexible, less transparent, and thicker. Age and other medical conditions also cause the tissues within the lens to break down and clump together, clouding small areas within the lens. With time, the clouding becomes denser and involves a bigger part of the lens. A cataract scatters and blocks the light as it passes through the lens, preventing a sharply defined image from reaching your retina. This can lead to blurred vision.  Cataracts generally develop in both eyes, but not evenly. The cataract in one eye may be more advanced than the other, causing a difference in vision between eyes. Those with a cataract in one eye can develop it in the other eye too. However, it is not contagious and cannot spread from one eye to the other or from person to person. They are neither painful nor make the eye itchy or red.”

Some symptoms of cataract include clouded, blurred or dim vision; increasing difficulty with vision at night; sensitivity to light and glare; need for brighter light for reading and other activities; seeing “halos” around lights; frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription; fading or yellowing of colors; and double vision in a single eye.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, said,

“Due to the relatively early onset of this condition, those affected with cataracts face many years of severe vision loss and/or blindness. Addressing the widespread problem of blindness in India requires dealing with cataract—and dealing with cataract requires surgical intervention. Successful treatment of cataract can then have benefits over many years for individuals and their families.”

Some ways to prevent cataracts are as follows.

Get regular eye examinations as these can help in detecting eye problems at the earliest.

Quit smoking and look for ways you can avoid this habit.

Make sure to keep other vitals such as diabetes in check. Such medical conditions, if left uncontrolled, can increase the risk of cataracts.

Choose a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. Adequate consumption of these will give you the much-needed vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants that are necessary for eye health.

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