In the United States, cataract surgery is one of the most common and safe procedures performed today. In fact, you will probably have a cataract at some point in your lifetime. You will likely find out about a developing cataract at a comprehensive eye exam, and your ophthalmologist will help you decide when you should elect to have the cataract removed. In a relatively straightforward procedure, your cataract will be removed and you will experience clear vision again after your surgeon implants an artificial lens called an IOL.
In third world countries, however, a cataract can mean eventual blindness. Inaccessible villages, a shortage of doctors and lack of supplies mean that millions of men, women and children around the world are blinded by cataracts. New technologies are now emerging to increase education about cataracts and provide tools and medical professionals to perform surgeries on a global scale.
Change takes time, but blindness from cataracts is a tragedy that needs to be remedied, says Jacob Mohan Thazhathu, president and CEO of HelpMeSee. “There is no reason for tens of millions worldwide to lack the access to the basic surgical care they need because there are not enough trained providers.”
In Gambia, cataracts cause as much as 62% of blindness, and HelpMeSee has a strategy for reaching every blind and visually impaired individual. With the use of the HelpMeSee Reach App for patient services and a pre-sterilized kit for manual small-incision cataract surgery, health care professionals can identify and treat patients much faster than before and have lower infection rates (Source: Healio).
Open Your Eyes”—Nepal
Irene Taylor Brodsky is shooting a documentary called “Open Your Eyes” in Nepal to bring awareness to cataracts. The Oscar-nominated filmmaker points out that 90 percent of individuals with blindness from cataracts live in the poorest nations in the world. Ironically, cost is not the barrier. Cataract surgery used to cost about $500, but now it is available for the price of a cup of coffee.
The subject of Brodsky’s documentary is a married couple named Duga and Manisara who both have cataracts and have not seen each other’s faces in over 15 years. The film follows the couple through their surgery and the reuniting with their family, which is incredibly touching and moving.
“It may sound like a cliche, but it actually happens,” Brodsky said in an interview with The Huffington Post. “Here’s a problem we can solve! Oftentimes documentaries illuminate pressing questions of our time, but the answers are not always obvious. My film shows how a relatively simple six-minute surgery […] can give someone their life back” (Source: Huffington Post).