“I couldn’t see the colors properly, I saw everything blurry and cloudy.” This is how housewife Solange Oliveira, 62, had the vision when the cataract showed the first signs in 2018. From time to time, she reported the discomfort to her husband and four children, but it was not until 2020 when her daughter started working from home due to the pandemic, that she noticed how often her mother complained.
“She complained that it was difficult to see small things and that the blurred vision interfered with household chores. She found it harder to clean the house, thread the needle, sew and iron clothes. Because of this , she had to do everything more slowly,” says Talita de Oliveira Souza, 36, an environmental engineer.
Since her mother does not have a health insurance plan, Talita made an appointment with an eye doctor for her through the SUS (Unified Health System). The doctor detected that Solange had cataracts in both eyes and needed surgery.
A public health problem in Brazil and around the world, cataracts are the clouding of the lens, a biological lens that exists inside the eye. “This clouding occurs gradually and resembles a car windshield fogging up, that is, a cataract”, explains Rubens Belfort Junior, ophthalmologist, professor at Unifep (Federal University of São Paulo ) and president of the Instituto da Visão.
Also according to the ophthalmologist, almost everyone ends up having cataracts with age. In the past, the techniques used did not allow surgery before or after, but today cataracts can be operated on at any stage and whenever it interferes with the patient’s visual quality and living conditions.
The first symptoms of the disease are mild: glare and eyestrain from far and/or near, but as it progresses, the person may come to see only numbers or notice if the light is on or off. “Fortunately, this is reversible vision loss and blindness,” says Belfort Junior.
The deadline for SUS and the solution
With the guide in hand, Talita went to the health post to schedule the exams in March 2020, but was told they weren’t scheduled due to the pandemic. With each day, the problem only got worse.
“I had difficulty walking in the street, I couldn’t see sidewalks and steps well, I was afraid of falling. I’ve always liked to walk, but I avoided going out on sunny days because the light bothered, my vision was even more blurry. It was no different, I had trouble reading books, texting on my cell phone and even watching TV,” Solange recalls.
Worried about the evolution of the disease and not knowing when the examination scheduling service would be unblocked by the SUS, the family paid for a private consultation with an ophthalmologist. The doctor discovered that Solange had lost 30% of her vision in her left eye and 15% in her right eye. The recommendation was that she have the surgery as soon as possible.
Talita cited the cost of the surgery at three clinics and the outcome was disappointing. “Each eye, except for exams and consultations, cost R$4,000 in the cheapest place; in the most expensive, it was R$7,000. We couldn’t afford to pay,” explains the girl.
Without perspective, Solange was upset by the delay and the possibility of not being able to do the procedure. “I was very worried, sad and I was afraid of going completely blind.”
In June 2021, Talita’s fiancé saw the announcement of a video on Vision Central on YouTube. The startup, specializing in the digital health journey, promotes access to eye surgeries for people without medical insurance.
This happens through partnerships with specialized surgeons who offer vacant hours in their practices and clinics with more accessible and easier payment terms – there are 28 clinics in nine Brazilian states, totaling more than 100 eye surgeons.
Talita contacted the Vision Center and explained her mother’s case. “It was only after making sure it was a serious and reliable company that I made an appointment at the clinic they recommended. The service was good and the best part was the price. The total price, including the consultation, exams, surgery and the right to three post-operative visits, it was affordable and they made it easy to pay,” he recalls.
Talita, her father and brothers shared and paid for her mother’s left eye surgery, which was performed on August 24, 2021, 1 year and 5 months after she received the surgical indication.
Cataracts can only be cured by surgery.
Cataract is the most frequent cause of blindness and surgery for its correction is one of the most performed in Brazil and in the world. In our country alone, it is estimated that there are more than 500,000 people to operate for this condition, informs Belfort Junior, holder of a doctorate and a post-doctorate in ophthalmology and immunology.
“It is a delicate and highly specialized surgery. Once the cataract is removed, the surgeon puts an intraocular lens in its place, restoring vision. During the procedure, the doctor also tries to correct the degree of the eye to avoid wearing glasses. It should be noted that the treatment of cataracts is always surgical, there are no eye drops, pills, gymnastics or lasers to prevent the problem or delay its evolution”, explains the doctor .
Happy and excited about the result of the operation, Solange says the first thing she noticed was the vividness of the colors on the TV. “Then I walked around the house and commented on the things that caught my eye, the flame on the stove was blue and the pot set I had won in Talita was red. I only realized how how bad it was and how bad my sight was after my surgery,” he says.
Four months after the procedure, Solange received a call from an attendant at the health center informing her that the exam guide had been published and that she could proceed with scheduling exams and, later, surgery. . Since she still has to operate on her right eye, the housewife would have the option of doing so via the SUS, but she did not want to.
“I will continue the treatment at the clinic affiliated with Central da Visão. I was treated very well by the team, I am grateful that they helped me to see again. My husband and my children are finishing paying the first operation, I’m going to operate on my right eye in June this year. I’m anxious and can’t wait for it,” the housewife said.
With vision in her left eye fully recovered, Solange celebrates the fact that she has a better quality of life and shares an experience she had last year: “Talita was going to skydive me on my 62nd birthday. anniversary. it’s so incredible that I took courage and ended up jumping before the agreed date. I contemplated the landscape with wide eyes, I felt free and fulfilled”.