INDIA  :   Health

Cataract treatment in India

Saturday , 13 February 2016

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cataract is responsible for 51% of the world’s blind people. In this article, we explore treatment options available in India for cataract

WHO defines cataract as clouding of the natural lens of the eye, preventing clear vision. Ophthalmologists claim that it is one of the most common reasons behind loss of vision, among people over the age of 40.

“In our eyes, just behind iris and the pupil, there is a lens which helps light passing into the eye and producing clear and sharp images at the retina. Cataract in this lens scatters the light, as it passes through the lens, thereby preventing a sharply defined image from reaching your retina. Formation of cataract leads to a clouded vision, making it difficult for the person see properly, especially at night,” explained Dr Tatyarao Lahane, Dean of Sir JJ Group of Hospitals-Mumbai, a renowned Ophthalmologist in India.

He further elaborated that since development of cataract is a slow process, one has enough time to seek treatment, before it starts interfering with the vision. “Impaired vision affects quality of life, as the person is unable to perform his/her day-to-day activities effectively,” added Dr Lahane.

Causes and symptoms

While cataract is generally associated with the ageing process, ophthalmologists, say in some cases, one can even have cataract at birth. An eye injury, inflammation or any other eye diseases are also associated to the formation of cataract.

“Ageing is the major risk factor for cataract. People with long term diabetes and hypertension are more prone to develop cataracts. Smoking, consumption of alcohol, unprotected exposure to ultraviolet radiation, certain drugs such as steroids, are the other known risk factors for cataract,” said Dr Harshavardhan Ghorpade, Ophthalmologist at Fortis Healthcare Hospital-Mumbai.

Cataract can affect an eye or both the eyes. According to Mayo Clinic, cataract can be broadly divided, into four types:

1.) Cortical cataract: It affects the edges of the lens. A person suffering from this type of cataract often experiences problems with glare.

2.) Posterior subcapsular cataract: This type of cataract generally affects the back of the lens and interferes with the reading vision. It reduces the vision in bright light and causes glare or halos around light at night.

3.) Nuclear cataract: This type of cataract affects the centre of the lens. It is a slow progressive cataract, in which the lens may even turn brown, making it difficult for the person to distinguish between various shades of colour.

4.) Congenital cataract: This type of cataract is mainly observed in children, at birth. Contracting infection during pregnancy, conditions like myotonic dystrophy, galactosemia, Lowe’s syndrome or rubella, are known to lead to congenital cataract.

Mayo Clinic lists the following signs and symptoms of cataracts:

  • Clouded, blurred or dim vision.
  • Increasing difficulty with vision at night.
  • Sensitivity to light and glare.
  • Seeing “halos” around lights.
  • Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription.
  • Fading or yellowing of colours.
  • Double vision in a single eye.

Introducing sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach that are rich sources of vitamin E in one’s diet, helps in preventing cataract. To reduce the risk of getting cataract, doctors also suggest eating food that is rich in antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin C and other food containing omega-3 fatty acids.

Diagnosis and treatment

To detect cataract, a person is subjected to a comprehensive eye examination, after taking into account the patient’s history as well as examination of the retina, lens and pressure within the eye, among other factors. The three major tests conducted to conclude cataract, includes:

1.) Visual Acuity Test- In this procedure, the patient is made to read the eye chart to test if he/she has a 20/20 vision, or has signs of impairment.

2.) Dilated Eye Exam- It is a retinal examination where the doctor puts dilating drops in the eyes, to open up the pupils. This helps the doctor in examining the back of the eyes, using an ophthalmoscope.

3.) Tonometry-This procedure helps the eye specialist to measure the pressure inside the eye, using a specialised instrument.

While cataract surgery is the only treatment option for cataract, not all cataracts will require immediate surgery. There are two types of cataract surgeries- Phacoemulsification and Extracapsular surgery.

“Symptoms of early cataracts can be taken care of with the new eyeglasses, bright lighting, anti-glare glasses or magnifying lenses,” informed Dr Nishita Agarwala, Ophthalmologist at PD Hinduja Hospital-Mumbai. She further explained that unless a cataract starts interfering with everyday activities like reading or driving, a cataract surgery is not recommended. “In cataract surgery performed under local anaesthesia, the diseased natural lens is removed and replaced by an artificial lens. Unlike other diseases, delay in cataract surgery doesn’t deteriorate the eye condition or damage it. One need not rush into surgery,” advised Dr Agarwala.

India as a destination for treatment of cataract

Indian corporate hospitals and eye clinics offer comprehensive eye care, which is at par with the western countries, and yet much cheaper.  With state-of-the-art facilities, advanced technology, highly qualified team of eye surgeons, many foreign patients prefer to get their cataract surgeries performed in India.

“A phacoemulsification cataract procedure in India will cost around RS 20,000 for both the eyes. The same surgery in the USA will cost around $45,000. Therefore, many patients prefer to come to India. By adapting to new technology, latest techniques and the most advanced machines for eye treatment, Indian corporate hospitals have only helped themselves, in the top priority list of foreign patients for eye care,” said Dr Siddharth Mehta, Ophthalmologist and Director, at Mehta Eye Clinic-Mumbai. He also told TGI that many eye surgeons in India, are now routinely doing bladeless cataract surgeries, which helps considerably in quick recovery.

He further added that depending on the kind of lens, the cost of cataract surgery in India can go up to Rs 35,000. “Multifocal lens, toric lens, accommodating lens, aspheric lens and mono vision lens, are few of the type of lens, currently being offered in India for cataract surgery,” informed Dr Mehta.