challenges (experienced by keratoconic patients in south africa)

Keratoconus largely remains undiagnosed for the majority of patients in South Africa. The main reasons are: 

  • No/limited access to eye care services (especially in semi-urban and rural areas).
  • A lack of knowledge of parents, care-givers and teachers about keratoconus (leaving patients/families fearful and feeling unsupported).
  • Limited diagnostic skills of many practitioners (sadly, one still encounters large numbers of children who, despite being to health facilities, have not been correctly diagnosed due to the lack of skills of the health workers at many facilities)
  • Inadequate equipment to diagnose keratoconus at health care facilities

In the instances where there is a diagnosis made, patients are generally referred to private practices as almost all government facilities do not treat keratoconus. 

The cost of treatment within the private sector is beyond the financial means of the majority of these patients, leaving them untreated and visually impaired or blind.

Yet, proper cost-effective correction with rigid contact lenses or surgical procedures can restore vision and make the patient functional again.

There is also a long waiting list for those needing corneal grafts in South Africa. Patients with the financial resources are able to go to other countries like India and get their grafts done sooner. However, the majority of affected patients in South Africa cannot afford to pay for corneas to be brought into the country (R 20 000-R25 000) or for the trip abroad to have the surgery done in another country.