India still needs to do a lot more to ensure access to quality eye care: Dr OP Agrawal

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Access to quality eye care services to the people, despite commendable government efforts, remains an insurmountable task to combat blindness due to cataract in India.

Cataract, a clouding in the eye’s natural lens that, left untreated, can lead to blindness. In India, cataract affects 3 out of every 4 adults over 60 years and a significant population remains untreated. It accounts for 62.6% of blindness.

The disease doesn’t affect only the old. Some children are born with cataract (congenital cataracts) mandating early detection and treatment to prevent permanent damage. Age, exposure to ultra violet radiation, diabetes and nutritional deficiencies are some of the common risk facts associated with cataract.

Surgery which remains the single most promising treatment for cataract, has witnessed revolutionary technological advancements ranging from cataract extraction to replacing the extracted lense, over the last 20 years. Innovations like phacoemulsification with its small incision, have dramatically improved the refractive accuracy of cataract surgery. Furthermore, introduction of the femtosecond laser into cataract surgery significantly augmented safety and predictability of this procedure. The ensuing innovations in intraocular lens material have allowed surgeries to be performed through smaller incisions offering early recovery and predictable refractive outcomes, said Dr OP Agrawal, managing director & chief consultant, Rohit Eye Hospital

The LenSx system was the first femtosecond laser system to receive FDA nod for cataract surgery performed in the US. The LenSx system is approved for corneal incisions, capsulotomies and lens (cataract) fragmentation.

It has emerged as the standard system of choice among surgeons worldwide than any other femtosecond laser. LenSx allows the surgeon make precise and customisable incisions using a high definition OCT (Optical coherence tomography) technology. Additionally, its personalised patient interface allows greater efficiency. The procedural time is also faster with a total treatment time of less than 2 minutes, he added.

Despite technological advancements in cataract treatment, improving outcome of cataract surgery in parts of the country especially small towns and rural areas is a challenge that government needs to deal with. There are reports suggesting that the visual outcome of cataract surgery in such areas is frequently sub-optimal, often failing to achieve the standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO). Considering this, realising ‘Right to Vision: 2020’ seems a distant dream for the country, he concluded.

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