8 Causes Of Blindness Among Children In India

The prevalence of childhood blindness in India stands at a staggering 0.8 per 1,000 children

Shubhangi Shah
Written by: Shubhangi ShahUpdated at: Nov 08, 2021 13:11 IST
8 Causes Of Blindness Among Children In India

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It might not be well known but child blindness is highly prevalent in India. In fact, as per a study, the child blindness prevalence in India stands at 0.8 per 1,000. Also, although 80% of the causes of blindness in adults are avoidable, the same for children is 50%, says Dr. Bindiya Hapani, who is a Consultant Ophthalmologist at Dr Agarwals Eye Hospital, Bengaluru. There are about 1.5 million blind children the world over, with an additional 18 million children with moderate to severe vision impairment. Notably, 3/4th of them belong to low to middle-income countries, where the childhood blindness prevalence is as high as 1.5 per 1000, as compared to 0.3 per 1,000 in high-income countries. 

According to Dr Hapani, over the years, the cause behind childhood blindness in India has shifted from cornea-related issues to whole-globe problems such as microphthalmos (small eye), anophthalmos (absence of the eye), and retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). In India, the common causes of blindness among children include:

  1. Untreated refractive errors
  2. Corneal opacities due to measles
  3. Vitamin A deficiency
  4. Eye infections such as ophthalmia neonatorum
  5. Toxicity of traditional eye remedies
  6. Congenital cataracts
  7. Congenital glaucoma
  8. Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP)

Let’s have a brief look at them one by one.

Untreated Refractive Errors

Untreated Refractive Errors is one of the causes of childhood blindness

  • This is among the leading causes of blindness among children.
  • It happens when refractive errors, such as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), or astigmatism (blurred near and distant vision), are left untreated, such as not using spectacles or using improper specs. 
  • Not just blindness, this impacts a child’s overall growth and development, notably his/her academic development.

Corneal Opacities Due To Measles

  • In developing countries, measles is among the leading causes of childhood blindness, as per the American Academy Of Opthalmology (AAO). This is because immunisation drives in these countries are less effective.
  • What aggravates the issue is the prevalence of malnutrition in such areas, especially regarding vitamin A, which further affects eye health.

Vitamin A Deficiency

  • Vitamin A is very important for eye health.
  • In fact, night blindness is one of the symptoms as well as causes of vitamin A deficiency.
  • In its severe form, it can even lead to blindness.
  • As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 250,000 to 500,000 children who are Vitamin A-deficient become blind every year. Not only that, half of them die within a year of getting blind.

Ophthalmia Neonatorum

Ophthalmia Neonatorum is among the causes of childhood blindness

  • An eye infection, ophthalmia neonatorum, or neonatal conjunctivitis happens to a baby within the month he/she is born.
  • If left untreated, it can cause blindness.

Congenital Cataracts

Congenital Glaucoma

  • Another cause of blindness among kids is congenital glaucoma.
  • In this, the fluid pressure that builds up in the eyes damages the optic nerves.
  • It affects children from birth till three years of age.

Retinopathy Of Prematurity (ROP)

  • Retinopathy of prematurity is an eye disorder that can result in blindness in children.
  • In this, an abnormal blood vessel develops in the retina of the eye.
  • It generally affects infants who are prematurely born.
  • Although treatable, advanced ROP can cause serious vision loss or even blindness.

Regarding what can parents do to prevent blindness in their children Dr Hapani said that if they see squinting in either of the eyes or white reflex is seen from the pupil, the parents should take their kids to an ophthalmologist immediately. Also, refractive error is a major cause of blindness among children. Hence, a pre-school eye examination is crucial. 

Along with the overall health, it is important to take care of the eye health of children. Blindness not just restricts their academic development, but also emotional, psychological, and social development. Hence, proper care, regular check-ups, and prompt treatment in case of any eye disorder are crucial.

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