Over time, things grow fuzzy: clouded vision, faded colors, lights too bright or haloed, failing night vision, double vision. These are the symptoms of cataracts, a clouding of the eye lens that touches more than half of all Americans by the time they reach age 80. An easily treatable condition left untended can lead to blindness. Cataract removal is easy, one of the most common operations in the United States, a safe and effective surgery that leaves roughly 90 percent of patients with better vision afterward.
But the majority of cases are not in the United States. Worldwide 18 million people suffer from cataracts, most of whom live in the developing world, where access to medical treatment can be scarce. So despite being easily treatable, cataracts plague the vision of millions worldwide.
Enter the Himalayan Cataract Project, a nonprofit launched in 1995 by two eye doctors, Sanduk Ruit and Geoff Tabin. Ruit is a Nepali-born doctor who studied in India before going to the Netherlands and Australia on fellowships. He then returned to Nepal with dreams of reviving sight in his home nation. He worked with international colleagues to develop low-cost lens replacements and set up a factory right in Katmandu to manufacture them. He also refined techniques that cut surgical times drastically. Suddenly a surgery that cost thousands in the developed world was available for $25 in Nepal. The paradigm of available sight had shifted.
The Himalayan Cataract Project has since completed 600,000 cataract surgeries across the developing world, from Nepal to India and Ethiopia to Myanmar. And in addition to surgical work, they have led an eye health and education campaign to let people across the country know they do not have to be trapped by cataracts. Blindness in Nepal has dropped as a result, from one blind person for every 100 people to less than 0.2 percent. With the Himalayan Cataract Project, things don’t have to grow fuzzy.
Simple solutions can surmount barriers to healthy vision. The Himalayan Cataract Project is dedicated to making a difference across the developing world, one set of eyes at a time.
No matter where you are, if you find yourself experiencing vision troubles talk to your eye care professional. And as always, if you need assistance getting there, a ride to reach your eye doctor, call Rides in Sight. We can help. Simple solutions can surmount barriers to healthy vision.