A public health problem in developing countries

An early cataract

It is by far the biggest cause of blindness in the world, with 20 million blinded by it and causing four times as many people to be partially sighted. 80% of these people live in developing countries. It is a considerable socio-economic burden in these regions, although it is easily cured with a surgical procedure.


Cataract is an eye disease characterised by the clouding or opacification of the natural lens of the eye found behind the pupil, which focuses the image on to the retina. This results in a decrease in vision as the lens becomes cloudy which can eventually lead to total blindness.


Cataract is most often caused by ageing.

Contributing factors

- Exposure to excessive UVB rays
- Smoking
- Nutritional deficiencies


Cataracts affect 20% of the global population aged 65 and over and 60% of those aged over 85. In less developed countries, the problems develop earlier at around 40 years of age (due to environmental factors). The number of confirmed cases is continuing to increase around the world due to the global increase in life expectancy.


Cataracts can only be treated by a surgical procedure. The surgery involves the removal of the opaque lens which is then replaced by an artificial lens. Most operations are carried out using local (topical) anaesthetic in an ambulatory without the need for patients to stay in hospital overnight. Over 90% of operations are successful in restoring useful vision, with a low rate of complications the following day.
It is considered by health economists as one of the most cost-effective procedures, comparable to vaccinations.
To offer these services to the poorest rural population, the OPC has developed Outreach Surgery Units (OSU) in the countries that we operate in. The surgical team composed of an ophthalmologist, an ophthalmic nurse and a driver in a 4x4 car travel to isolated health centres where they can perform cataract operations. The 4x4 contains all the necessary equipment for cataract operations such as a portable operating microscope and medical supplies.

Cataract (OPC Photo)

Read the story of how Mr Sekoun regained his sight

Suffering from a cataract, he regained his sight thanks to Doctor Camara, who « miraculously » gave him back his sight at the Kankan Centre in Guinea !

Click HERE

With a donation of just €25, you could make a sight-saving operation possible for a person suffering from a cataract. (Please note French taxpayers receive a tax deduction, making their donation just €8.50 !)
To donate to the OPC, click HERE.

Click here for more information from the WHO site

Further information about cataracts can be found here