A child with a cataract will receive treatment from Orbis.

Cataract Awareness Month

This Cataract Awareness Month, learn more about this blinding disease that is the leading cause of visual impairment in the world. Also, meet some of the amazing patients whose cataracts have been eliminated and sight restored.

What Are Cataracts?

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye – turning the lens from clear to yellow, brown or even milky white. This blocks light from passing into the eye and, over time, causes vision loss and eventually blindness.

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness and visual impairment around the world, accounting for about 40% of global blindness. According to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, women are at greater risk than men of developing cataracts and are less likely to have access to services needed to treat them.

Patient Stories

Seeing the smiling faces of patients who have just had their cataracts removed is one of the most heartwarming experiences for our Volunteer Faculty and staff. Volunteer Faculty Dr. Donnie Suh, who has worked with Orbis for more than 20 years, says, "Giving someone vision is not just a simple act of giving someone sight. It's actually giving them a future. It's giving them freedom. But most importantly, it's giving them hope. There are places they want to go. Now they can get there.”

The Future of Treatment and Training

Our original research is regularly published in top-tier peer-reviewed journals, with learnings used to inform our evidence-based approach to programming and innovation, including around cataract treatment. Our findings also have implications that can strengthen outcomes for others in the eye care sector – and beyond.

In India, where more children are blind than in any other country, our Country Director, Dr. Rishi Raj Borah, was eager to understand the primary barriers keeping Indian children from receiving cataract care. He co-authored an article published in the medical journal PLOS ONE that found there are three main barriers, including:

  • Environmental context and resources, including related expenses like travel and lost wages; local health facilities not offering screening programs to detect cataracts or surgeries to treat them; and stressors, such as lengthy travel to hospitals or wait times for appointments.
  • Beliefs about consequences, including cultural beliefs based on spirituality and old practices, such as seeking care from local healers; concern about negative outcomes post-surgery; and a lack of appreciation for the importance of preventive eye care.
  • Social influences, including cultural norms that give low priority to eye care for children; and social pressure for parents to try alternate forms of treatment, such as herbal remedies.

Another article co-authored by Orbis team members Clare Szalay Timbo, Amelia Geary, and Nathan Congdon, published in BMC Medical Education, shows the effectiveness of simulation training for improved surgical outcomes during cataract treatment.

The study, which took place in Trujillo, Peru, showed that doctors who received simulation training on cataract surgical techniques scored higher on their average surgical competency score than they did prior to the training. This exciting news means that we can replicate this simulation training around the world, allowing more doctors to get the training they deserve, so patients get the best results.

Thank You

We hope that during Cataract Awareness Month, you can learn more about the world's number-one cause of avoidable blindness and how to prevent it.

As always, none of this research and treatment would be possible without the generous help of our supporters. We thank everyone who has contributed to our cause of ending avoidable blindness. We couldn't do it without you!


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