Cataracts

Since 1974, SEE has worked diligently to reduce the number of cataract cases around the world. Our network of volunteer surgeons provides free treatment to thousands of cataract patients every year, as well as skill-sharing and training on appropriate surgical techniques to help strengthen local health care infrastructure worldwide.

What are cataracts?

In healthy eyes, light is able to pass through the lens back to the retina, allowing us to see detail. A cataract creates a cloud on that normally transparent lens, blurring vision and eventually leading to blindness.

Cataracts cause a third of worldwide blindness

According to the World Health Organization, cataracts affect approximately 65.2 million people and cause moderate to severe vision loss in over 80% cases. As populations age and average life expectancy continues to increase worldwide, the number of people with cataracts will continue to grow.

Cataracts are relatively simple to treat and remove surgically, but access to eye care and the appropriate resources is extremely limited in underserved communities. Unfortunately, 99% of people with cataracts live in these underserved areas.

Your donation will save someone’s sight

Every year, SEE doctors provide free cataract surgery to thousands of patients around the world.

There is no way to completely prevent cataracts

Some lifestyle choices can lessen the likelihood of developing cataracts, including reducing smoking and alcohol consumption, and wearing sunglasses. But the most common cause of cataracts is biological aging, aided by skin diseases, injury, infection, genetics, and exposure to UV-B radiation. For example, individuals who spend a lot of time outdoors without eye protection are at greater risk to develop cataracts. Some children are even born with them.

Cataracts are simple and cost efficient to treat

There are three common techniques to remove cataracts: Phacoemulsification (Phaco), Extra Capsular Cataract Extraction (ECCE), and Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS). All three are non-invasive and boast a high success rate — 90% of treated patients report a corrected vision of 20/40 or better. SEE performs these three procedures on cataract patients free of cost, mostly utilizing MSICS. This is because, when left untreated for too long, cataracts become dense and more difficult to remove. Removing cataracts requires an incision — therefore, MSICS is preferred over ECCE because its incision is small enough to avoid stitches. Phaco, on the other hand, utilizes a handheld ultrasonic probe to liquify the clouded lens, which surgeons then replace with an artificial one. Many of the cataracts SEE surgeons treat are simply too dense to efficiently treat with Phaco. MSICS is relatively rare in the developed world where there’s ready access to quality eye care — in fact, it’s rarely included in traditional ophthalmological curriculums. SEE has offered MSICS training to our volunteer doctors since 2006.

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