Cataracts remain leading cause of visual impairment despite progress in surgical techniques

DEAR EDITOR, the National Referral Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr John Hue said, recently, the country’s top causes for blindness and visual impairment is cataracts.

He said, “The top causes of blindness and visual impairment in the Solomon Islands in the age group of 40 years and above are cataracts meaning clouding of the natural lens in the eye.

Other leading causes are refractive errors, he added.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO } 81 percent of all people who are blind or have moderate to severe vision impairment are aged 50 years and above. With an increasing population of older people, WHO has stated that more people will be at risk of vision impairment due to chronic eye diseases.

Dr Hue advised people in the Solomon Island, especially those over 40 and those suffering from diabetes, as well as all those having vision difficulties, to have regular eye checks, at least once a year to see if glasses are needed.

Source: Quoting extracts from the Island Sun newspaper.

Solomon Islands is not alone when having to deal with blindness and impaired vision.

In neighbouring Papua New Guinea (PNG) the government there recently signed a new agreement with the Fred Hollows Foundation in New Zealand.

The agreement outlines commitments to ensure all people have access to high quality eye care, provided by a skilled local eye care workforce in a supportive healthcare environment.

The Fred Hollows Foundation has operated in PNG over the last 11 years and helped to train 86 specialist eye care nurses to provide community care and to help PNG address the burden of blindness.

Very sadly, PNG has the highest rate of blindness and vision impairment in the Pacific. “One in eighteen adults over 50-years-old are blind and women are more likely to be blind than men.

Given the latest revelations about the state of blindness and impaired vision in the Solomon Islands and especially as it seems that blindness can be prevented if cataracts are diagnosed and removed earlier enough, I strongly urge the Solomon Islands Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) to see whether the Fred Hollows Foundation, such a worthy charity, can aid eye care and treatment in the Solomon Islands on a similar basis as is now being done in PNG.

Over the past two years, Lions Clubs in New Zealand has given the National Referral Hospital in Honiara 6000 pairs of spectacles, at my request, and Take My Hands Charity Trust with help from the SFA freighted the several boxes of spectacles to Honiara.

I am especially indebted to Lions Clubs (NZ), to my partner charity Take My Hands and to the Solomons SFA for everything they have done to help those having impaired vision throughout the Solomon Islands.

It is my wish that more will be done by all those committed to relieve and to overcome the burden of blindness which, from what Dr Hue said, could be prevented if cataracts could be removed in the early stages.

Finally, I extend my appreciation of the work being done in eye care and treatment by the Honiara National Referral Hospital.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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