Clearing cataract surgery wait list would reduce number of accidental falls by a third, research suggests

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world and research shows clearing New Zealand’s wait list for the surgery would reduce the number of accidental falls by about a third.

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But increasing the amount of surgeries would come at a cost. Source: 1 NEWS

The research was carried out by the University of Otago, Adapt Research and Tairawhiti District Health Board.

Cataracts cause the eye’s natural lens to become cloudy, causing hazy, blurry or less colourful vision.

More than 4300 people are on the list for cataract surgery, waiting on average 53 days.

But researcher Matt Boyd said that’s only the number of people confirmed for surgery and in reality 20,000 people could be needing the treatment.

"New Zealand is still rationing this procedure, you have to meet a threshold to get the procedure. And then you have to wait potentially up to a year," said Mr Boyd.

Research shows people with cataracts are twice as likely to fall. Last year, ACC spent more than $1.2 billion on fall-related claims.

Mr Boyd said it would take an additional $4 million a year to clear the waiting list for cataract surgery.

"That is a very good investment of the health dollar because the benefits through falls that could be prevented and the improvement in vision is very good in comparison to some other health interventions."

The Blind Foundation estimates 370,000 New Zealanders have some form of cataract.

"We know in New Zealand people do wait longer than ideal for their cataract surgery. We know how long we wait depends to some extent in New Zealand where we live," said Claire Fitzgerald, a orthoptist practice advisor with the Blind Foundation.

Mr Boyd says the problem of cataracts is only going to increase as the population ages. 27 million cataract operations are carried out each year globally, making it the world’s leading procedure.