COVID-19 impact: Cataract patients avoid surgeries amid the fear

Chaitraly Deshmukh
Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Rising incidences of visual impairment and blindness are one of the major health concerns worldwide and in India.

Pune: Since the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become a major hindrance factor in the treatment module for other health ailments and eye care is no exception. Patients suffering from cataract and glaucoma have been refraining from any surgical intervention amid the infection risk and the numbers have dropped over 90 per cent.

Lockdown has posed a major setback for patients seeking treatment for various eye-related ailments, devoid of which many have lost their vision permanently. While the guidelines have been issued by the Government of India to allow elective and emergency surgeries in ophthalmology, following the due safety measures, the turn out rates have come down significantly. At this pace, a greater number of people with pre-existing eye problems are bound to lose their vision, partially or completely.

While as per the earlier guidelines, ophthalmologists were undertaking only emergency surgical procedures, the new guidelines now suggest them to perform elective surgeries with due precautions. Keeping in view the significant possibility of an increase in the number of patients who suffer from cataract and blindness due to cataract and other eye diseases, these elective surgeries have been started with proper safety measures.

"Cataract surgery is the most frequently performed surgery among surgeries performed on any part of the human body, even more, frequently than heart surgery. Patients in the need for the surgery have refrained from getting it done amidst the fear of COVID 19. With vision becoming increasingly blurred as the cataract progresses, it can take a toll on your life by hindering simple day to day activities. Timely treatment for cataract assists in improving and restoring the vision with a better quality of life," said Prof. (Dr) Mahipal Singh Sachdev, President AIOS and Chairman, Centre For Sight Group of Hospitals to Sakal Times.

India contributes to one out of three cases of blindness to the world which is highly alarming and needs to be tackled at the earliest. Rising incidences of visual impairment and blindness are one of the major health concerns worldwide and in India. India contributes to 22 per cent of the overall burden of blindness where 11 per cent of them are visually impaired.

According to the National Health Portal India survey 2017, it is the leading cause of irreversible blindness with estimated cases around 18 lakh. Though the average age for the prevalence of glaucoma is over 50 years, with a sedentary lifestyle and westernization, the average age is getting shorter. Moreover, it has recently been observed that of the total cases diagnosed with the condition, over 70 per cent of them are under the age of 35 years.

"Pertaining to the fact that Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, and India stands second only after China in terms of its prevalence, awareness among the masses is the only way to prevent the major cause of visual impairment. While glaucoma remains asymptomatic until 70-80% of vision is lost, people need to be made aware of early diagnostics in the prevention of permanent blindness caused by Glaucoma. It should be noted that everybody should undergo an annual eye examination after the age of 40 years," said Dr Namrata Sharma, Hony, General Secretary, AIOS and Prof (Opth) RP Centre.

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