Cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye which impedes the passage of light. Most cases of cataract are age-related and develop due to a variety of reasons, including long-term exposure to ultraviolet light or radiation, diseases such as diabetes or hypertension, or eye injury. Cataracts typically progress slowly to cause vision loss and are potentially blinding if untreated. Although most cases of cataract occur among the elderly, children can also be born with the condition or a cataract may develop at any point in life from eye diseases or injuries.
Cataract is the world’s leading cause of visual impairment. In spite of progress made with surgical treatments in many parts of the world, 18 million people experience cataract blindness, representing 48 percent of all cases of blindness. While cataract is found in all parts of the world, it remains a leading cause of blindness in developing countries where surgical services are often inadequate or inaccessible. Even where surgical services are available, there is often a long waiting period for operations, shortages of supplies and transportation problems that impede access to the underserved.
There is currently no way to prevent cataract, but surgical treatment involves removing the affected lens and replacing it with an intraocular lens (IOL). This outpatient surgery is relatively simple, cost-effective and has a very high success rate.
Since its inception in 1990, LCIF’s SightFirst program has played a key role in reducing blindness, especially blindness due to cataract. To date, the SightFirst program has awarded US$71.6 million for 526 cataract-related projects.
The SightFirst approach to reducing the number of people suffering from cataract has been largely successful, delivering substantial results. The program has provided support for more than 7.84 million sight-restoring cataract surgeries around the world, as well as upgrading eye care facilities and training eye care personnel. SightFirst has also influenced government policy. In Brazil, India and Mexico, for example, SightFirst cataract projects and initiatives have been partially responsible for the development of government subsidized cataract surgery programs.
SightFirst cataract projects generally focus on three main areas:
In addition, key strategies for SightFirst cataract projects are to:
In general, SightFirst projects must focus on the major causes of blindness on national or large regional levels. These projects reach populations who are underserved or who have limited or no access to eye health care services. The program funds high-quality, sustainable projects that deliver eye care services, develop infrastructure, train personnel and/or provide rehabilitation and education in underserved communities.
Find more information, including the SightFirst grant application, disease-specific questionnaires and long-range policy papers.
To learn more about the statistics found on this page, please visit the following:
World Health Organization: Priority Eye Diseases