A recent island-wide Government survey has revealed that within the next five years there would be more than one million patients awaiting cataract operations and the infrastructure facilities for tackling cataract related blindness was sorely lacking.
The survey was conducted with those above the age of 40 years by the Vision 2020 – National Programme for the Prevention of Blindness of the Ministry of Health.
The survey revealed that 1.7% were blind, out of which 66% (two thirds) were blind due to cataract related blindness.
The next major reason for blindness involves defects in the vision, in this case the result of not having glasses to wear. Other reasons include glaucoma, diabetes, retinopathy and corneal diseases.
A coordinator of the programme, Dr. Asela Abeydeera said that blindness due to cataract was the main problem the authorities faced at present.
“There must be more eye surgeons, more operating theaters and increased facilities and more funding for cataract lenses to adequately combat the situation,” he said.
Cataract is age-related and not preventable. It is found among those above the age of 50 and 60 years. The treatment involves an operation and implantation of a lens.
“As per a request made by elderly persons, the Ministry has decided to give 100,000 lenses free of charge every year. However, by 2020 we must have the human resources and the infrastructure in place,” Dr. Abeydeera emphasized.