7 February, 2010
By Anuradha Mascarenhas
Retinopathy of prematurity is an eye ailment that affects premature babies, wherein low birth–weight ones are at risk. Not all babies who are premature will have ROP, as many who are born with ROP will improve spontaneously.
However, since ROP is responsible for more blindness among children, it is vital to conduct screening within the first month of birth, say opthalmologists.
Around 80 lakh low birth–weight babies are born in the country a year and the survival rates have increased with modern NICU care. However, oxygen toxicity and relative hypoxia can contribute to the development of ROP, which occurs in one among 20 premature babies.
Hence the child is at risk of facing the trauma of being blind if not attended in time, said Dr Parikshit Gogate, paediatric opthalmologist.
A city–based eye hospital has now embarked on a programme to eliminate ROPrelated blindness and train opthalmologists and neonatologists about the disease.
The hospital has acquired a RET–CAM – the first such digital camera in the state that can take a photograph of the retina of babies.
“We have been able to save at least seven pre–term babies who were diagnosed with ROP in the past six months,” said a doctor at the hospital.
UK–based based NGO Sight Savers international funded the Rs 60–lakh RET–CAM and as many as 450 babies have been screened in the past six months, 250 of them from the city itself.