Cataracts are a clouding of the lens in the eye. Cataracts can be caused by several conditions including age, diabetes, certain drugs, sun exposure and smoking. The onset of most types of cataracts are slow and may not be perceptible at first. In the United States, patients’ cataracts are considered visually significant when the vision is blurry and the acuity drops below 20/40. While this is still considered functional vision, the degradation of sight causes moderate problems, which motivate a patient to seek care. Since there are resources available and it is a very successful surgery, these patients are offered and receive cataract surgery which restores their sight 99% of the time.
Contrastingly, in developing countries, when a person develops a cataract and cannot get surgical treatment, the cataract progresses and eventually causes blindness. Blindness and poor vision impact quality of life, particularly for those living in poverty. The blind are adversely affected economically, as ninety percent of blind individuals cannot work. Additionally, staying home while blind presents personal care and safety challenges. Thus blindness impacts the whole family. The limitations imposed by blindness mean that approximately 75% of visually impaired people require assistance with everyday tasks.
In developing countries, most blind adults need to be led by either sighted children or sighted adults. When a child becomes the caretaker, that child is often unable to attend school, thus denying the child an opportunity to escape the poverty cycle. When a sighted adult becomes the caregiver, he or she often needs to stop working. These are long-term repercussions for economics and education that extend beyond the blind individual. Blindness of one individual in a family can become the tipping point of a family economic status.
The good news is that this is curable blindness; it can be fixed with a simple surgical procedure! Eye Corps’ goal is to provide that surgical option in developing countries. When you restore sight, you are restoring so much more: independence, the ability to work and to contribute to the families’ needs.