Cataracts rampant, medics say

Cataract is the leading cause of blindness in the country, medics have said. A team of eye specialists currently conducting surgery on affected persons in Eastern Province, said the condition can be inborn or come with age.

Cataract is the leading cause of blindness in the country, medics have said.

A team of eye specialists currently conducting surgery on affected persons in Eastern Province, said the condition can be inborn or come with age.

Cataract is a clouding of the lens inside the eye leading to impaired vision. It is the most common cause of blindness and is conventionally corrected by surgery.

Dr Piet Noe, of Kabgayi Hospital eye unit, told The New Times that although some people are born with cataracts, in most cases it comes with aging or injury to the eye.

“Research has shown that cataracts are the leading causes of blindness in the country. In fact, half the population of the blind have a problem of cataracts,” he said.

Dr Noe said about 50 persons are operated on daily.

“We receive quite a big number of patients daily, which explains the magnitude of the issue.

What we are doing is minor surgery, but most patients we handle are found to have delayed the operation. This will be solved once eye clinics are established in all hospitals, as the government plans.”

The specialists, currently stationed at Rwamagana Hospital, are handling patients transferred from all district hospitals in the province.

Dr Noe, a Belgian who has been working in Africa for 10 years, said patients were also found with diabetic retinopathy.

He said cataracts affect the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, and causes blindness. It affects the vision of a person diagnosed with diabetes of age 18 and above.

“People with diabetes should udndergo a complete eye examination through dilated pupils at least once a year. Diabetic retinopathy is treated with surgery or laser surgery. With timely treatment, adequate control of blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and regular check up, 90 per cent of all cases of blindness from diabetes can be prevented.”

Dr Noe further said cataracts could also be caused by other conditions such as use of steroid medications.

Izayasi Rucakatsi, 57, a diabetic from Gishari Sector who has been blind for a year, regained his sight after the surgery.

Rucakatsi said he had been abandoned by everyone.

“I am a new person after living without sight for one year. I was hopeless when even my wife abandoned me. I had taken refuge in this hospital waiting to die, until doctors made miracles. I was totally blind,” Rucakatsi said.

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