Blind World

Retinopathy of Prematurity.
Blindness: Experts stress timely detection, cure.

June 22, 2004.

By C Shamsher,
Indian Express.

Chandigarh -- THERE wouldn’t have been so many blind schools in the country if the victims of RoP (Retinopathy of Prematurity), a major cause of blindness, were cured on time. About 50 per cent of children studying in the blind schools in India at present are victims of retinopathy. Unfortunately, the ones who get cured are small in number, for there are only two experts in India. Fortunately, one of them is at PGI.

Dr Mangat Dogra, consultant, ophthamology, PGI, one of the two experts, everyday answers umpteen e-mails of fellow ophthamologists from across the country. And at most times, he feels sorry for his diagnosis every time reads something like this, ‘‘The child has Retinopathy of Prematurity (RoP) and the blindness cannot be corrected.’’ RoP is a condition, whereby, due to premature birth, the blood vessels to the retina were unable to developed fully.

He says, ‘‘Many babies born before 34 weeks, less than 1,700 grams in weight and unwell at birth, are prone to RoP and consequently, blindness. The problem can be cured but the problem is that majority of them are brought to the hospital after four to six weeks when the problem is beyond treatment.’’

Another major problem is the lack of experts in retinopathy in the country. He says, ‘‘If reported within six weeks of birth, the RoP can be cured by laser treatment. But, reporting the problem after six weeks doesn’t help. Doctor Dogra says he gets a lot of enquiries from Baroda, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Delhi and other places about the possible scope of treatment.

‘‘The first case I treated was way back in 1991 when I came from the US. Since then, I have screened thousands of babies and cured about 500 of them. But a significant number of these cases are never reported at the hospital,’’ he adds.

However, according to experts, the matter might soon assume the proportions of a medico-legal issue in the country, for it was important for a paediatrician or a gynaecologist to tell the parents of such a child at birth about the possibility of blindness due to RoP. This, say experts, may lead to increase in the awareness level among parents. But for that. they add, the doctor will have to be aware of the issue first.

© 2004: Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

End of article.

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