How cataract surgery can change someone’s life  

Posted on 8 December 2017

Although its a relatively simple procedure – and most people still need to use reading glasses afterward – cataract surgery can significantly improve your quality of life.

Imagine if your vision progressively worsens until the whole world is blurry – that is what cataract patients see, explains Dr Willem Gerber, an ophthalmologist at Mediclinic Durbanville.

‘A cataract is just a gradual thickening of the natural lens in the eye – as you grow older it becomes denser and denser until the window of the eye becomes so opaque you can’t see anything,’ he adds.

The intricacies of cataract surgery depend on how dense the cataract is. ‘With early cataracts, we do a procedure called phacoemulsification which, in simple terms, is a micro-incision surgery technique where we break up the cataract with sonar, Dr Gerber explains.

‘For cataracts that have progressed to the point where patients can only see large hand movements, we can’t use ultra-sound to break it up as the cataract is too hard. Then you have to make a bigger incision to remove the cataract manually as a whole.’ The eye’s clouded lens is then replaced with a synthetic version called an intraocular lens (IOL) to restore clear vision.

New IOL’s are constantly being developed all the time to improve surgical outcomes for both the surgeon and the patient, Dr Mpopi Lenake, an ophthalmologist at Mediclinic Vergelegen explains.

The monofocal IOL has a fixed focus for one distance. Presbyopia-correcting IOL’s (also known as multifocal IOL’s) have the potential to help patients see at more than one distance. Toric IOL’s are designed to correct both cataracts and astigmatism at the time of surgery.

Dr Gerber recently performed five cataract procedures on public health patients at Mediclinic Durbanville Day Clinic. This surgery formed part of a broader initiative: Mediclinic is collaborating with the public sector by performing 100 operations on patients currently awaiting surgery in many of the busiest public sector hospitals.)

Dr Steve Steyn, the ophthalmic surgeon who performed 22 cataract procedures on a pro-bono basis at Mediclinic Welkom adds that says that restoring someone’s sight is the best feeling in the world. ‘Seeing a person smile the next day – and be able to perform his normal duties with crystal clear vision – makes me love my job,’ he says.


Published in CSI

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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3 Responses to “How cataract surgery can change someone’s life  ”

  1. Boet v d Walt says:

    I live in Pretoria and my left eye is busy forming a cataract and my medical aid savings fund is depleted, where can I have pro bono surgery to remove cataract?

  2. Bianca Francis says:

    Can someone please help me? My grandfather has cataracks in both of his eyes to the extent that he can only see outlines of people or things. He does not have an medical aid! At the beginning of last year 2017 he made an appointment to go to Bloemfontein State Hospital. The date he got was today 2 March 2018. Today he went there and the only thing they did was put him on a waiting list. He is 178th on the list and they estimated that his turn will be sometime in 2019. He cannot wait this long. A few years ago he had an accident and he has a really bad leg so he depends on his eye sight to move around. Can anyone please help me to get his eyes fixed? Docters here ask R40 000. And we dont have that kind money.

    • Frances Bailey says:

      Dear Bianca,

      Many thanks for your enquiry.

      Mediclinic is committed to supporting the public sector in alleviating surgical backlogs and have formed a partnership with public hospitals such as Groote Schuur to this effect. In terms of this collaboration, the patients are identified by the public hospital from their current waiting list, which doesn’t make it possible for us to consider individual requests.

      Please consult a specialist at your closest public hospital in order to be assessed: we hope that you will be assisted soon.

      Many thanks,

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