Cataract Awareness Month | Your Right To Sight With Affinity Health
June is Cataract Awareness Month, and Affinity Health – providers of affordable health cover – is lifting the veil on one of the most common causes of blindness and vision loss in South Africa.
Although cataracts are highly treatable and one of the most cost-effective medical procedures, this common eye condition is still the leading cause of blindness worldwide.
Sadly, in South Africa, an estimated 240,000 people are blind or partially sighted due to untreated cataracts.
Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health, explains that a cataract is the clouding of the eye’s crystalline lens (the part of the eye that focuses light and produces clear images).
“Simply put, a cataract scatters and blocks the light as it passes through the lens of the eye, preventing a sharply defined image from reaching your retina. As a result, your vision becomes blurred. Sufferers often liken the condition to looking through a frosty or fogged-up window. This process causes a gradual, progressive loss of vision over time, eventually leading to blindness,” says Hewlett.
Cataracts usually affect both eyes, but vision loss in one eye may be more advanced than in the other, resulting in a difference in vision between the two.
Cataracts can develop for various reasons, including long-term exposure to Ultraviolet (UV) light, radiation exposure, eye injury, long-term use of steroids, smoking, excess alcohol use, genetic predisposition, advanced age (over 65), and secondary effects of diseases like diabetes.1
An early symptom of cataracts is often sensitivity to light or glare. Indoor lights that once didn’t bother you now may seem too bright or have halos. Driving at night may also become a problem because of the glare caused by street lights and oncoming headlights.2
Other cataract signs and symptoms may include:3
- Clouded, blurred, or dim vision
- A brighter light is required for reading and other activities
- Changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions on a regular basis
- Fading or yellowing of colours
- Double vision (also known as diplopia)
Affinity Health recognises that preventing and controlling vision loss due to cataracts in South Africa is a complex challenge, and as a result, provides members with a variety of health eye care options. The Optometry benefit provides cover for the Members’ optical requirements.
If a Member requires a surgical procedure for the treatment of an eye condition, this will be covered under the Daily Illness benefit in a Network Day Clinic or hospital subject to Pre-authorisation and approval, provided the case meets the Affinity Health Clinical Guidelines and Managed Healthcare Protocols.4
Consult your doctor right away if you experience sudden vision changes, such as double vision or flashes of light, sudden eye pain, or a sudden headache.
If you are diagnosed with having cataracts, your ophthalmologist may suggest stronger glasses and brighter reading lights as a temporary solution to ease symptoms. However, because cataracts are a progressive disease, your condition will worsen over time, necessitating surgery to remove and replace the affected lens.
“The good news is that cataract surgery is usually a simple procedure that takes 30 to 45 minutes and has a high success rate in terms of improving your vision. The clouded lens inside your eye will be replaced with a clear artificial lens during the procedure. It’s usually an outpatient procedure that doesn’t necessitate an overnight hospital stay,” concludes Hewlett.
About Affinity Health
Affinity Health aims to provide premier quality, affordable medical insurance to South Africans. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service when they are faced with injury or illness. We work to deliver innovative solutions that are simple, cost-effective, and proven, so our cover is structured to ensure that you get exactly what you need. For more information, follow us on Facebook, and Instagram.