Pediatric Blindness and its Impact on Health

BY Dr. Chandrakanth Reddy D Published on May 5, 2022

Approximately 1.4 million children globally have a prevalence of childhood blindness. Every year, nearly 500,000 children become blind - almost one per minute. As a result, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified the control of pediatric blindness as a priority in its global initiative to eliminate avoidable pediatric blindness by the year 2020.

Effects of childhood blindness in the society:

Pediatric blindness in children deeply impacts the psychological, emotional, and socioeconomic growth of the family. A child with blindness is more likely to experience delays in developmental milestones. The blindness experienced during childhood significantly affects the affected child and family, and profoundly influences educational, employment, personal, and social prospects throughout life.

Causes of blindness in children:

Childhood blindness results from a number of causes, including genetically determined and congenital conditions, micronutrient deficiency (vitamin A), infective conditions (measles, ophthalmia neonatorum, rubella), as well as conditions that require specialized surgical treatment such as childhood cataract, glaucoma, and retinopathy of prematurity.

In the age group <2 years, pediatric eye disorders commonly include ocular tumors like Retinoblastoma, Retinal dystrophies, and other congenital associations. This is where issues of pediatric blindness may arise.

Among children aging 3-10 years, the majority of ocular concerns include refractive errors, ocular trauma (physical, thermal or chemical injuries) and retinal and corneal dystrophies.

Early identification and the prompt treatment of various preventable and curable causes of childhood blindness can help us negate their detrimental effects and save the visual potential of children.

Need for screening by primary caregivers of the child:

Who performs vision screening?

A vision screening efficiently examines the eyes. It involves screening a child for eye problems (or pediatric blindness) and referring them to an ophthalmologist for a comprehensive exam if necessary. Your child’s vision can be screened by a Parent, Paediatrician, or any healthcare provider.

How to diagnose blindness in children?

If you suspect that your kid may be losing their vision, schedule an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible. To halt or reverse the problem, an immediate diagnosis is needed. Take your kid to the pediatrician or general practitioner so that the doctor can examine their eyes. Afterward, the doctor may refer you to a pediatric ophthalmologist or a children's eye specialist.

Visual cues for parents to be aware of: Squinting, Frequent rubbing, swelling, headaches, excessive blinking, etc,

Screening by health care providers: 

Almost always, physicians perform regular eye examinations for newborns under the age of two. However, you should ensure that your child undergoes frequent complete eye exams.

(i) Newborns:

A doctor or other trained health professional should examine a newborn's eyes to check for basic indicators of eye health. This examination may include testing for various factors.

• a “red reflex” (like seeing red eyes in a flash photograph). If the bright light shone in each eye does not return a red reflex, more testing may be needed.

During the child's first year of life, perform a second screening. Usually, conduct this screening at a well-child exam between 6 and 12 months. Your child’s pediatrician or other health care professional should inspect the eyes and check for eye alignment.

Children should undergo screening for visual acuity and alignment at 5. Nearsightedness (myopia) is the most common problem in this age group, and eyeglasses can correct it. A child with misaligned eyes or signs of other eye problems should receive examination from an ophthalmologist.

Children treated with growth hormone therapy should have their eyes tested before and during treatment.

Looking for the right way to treat childhood blindness?

In most situations, glasses or laser surgery can remedy partial blindness, so parents shouldn't be alarmed. However, raising a completely blind child can be challenging as the condition is typically untreatable. It's important to remember that your child may not face any other difficulties in life or growth, and they simply require your support and attentiveness to their needs.

If you notice any signs of blindness, it is crucial to consult a doctor immediately. Seeking a second opinion can provide valuable support in such cases. Our experienced doctors can handle these situations with sensitivity and can suggest a nutritious diet, corrective lenses, and surgery based on the specific condition.

For additional information, you can refer to the following links:

Community Eye Health: Link

Danbury Eye : Link


Dr. Chandrakanth Reddy D

MBBS, MS(Ophthalmology)

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