There’s Cure For Retinopathy In Premature Babies
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14 October 2010
By Anoop Jaipurkar
Ismail Memon, who celebrated his first birthday recently, is like any other child his age, except that he cannot see clearly beyond five ft.
"We know our child does not have good vision, but what he sees now is much better than no vision at all," said his rickshaw driver father Shakil Memon.
Ismail’s is a case of retinopathy of prematurity (RoP), a disease peculiar to preterm and low birth–weight babies. It is a disease of the blood vessels of the retina (inside layer of the eye). In babies born premature, the retinal vessels are yet to grow. In some babies, if the vessels grow abnormally, they can bleed inside the eye leading to permanent irreversible blindness.
"Ismail was born three months premature. We diagnosed him with RoP and the surgery was performed immediately. He now has an ambulatory vision (3 to 4 ft visibility) in the left eye. The right eye could not be saved," said Saleel Gadkari, a retina surgeon, who operated upon Ismail at the H V Desai eye hospital in Mohammedwadi six months ago.
RoP needs to be taken seriously in India because premature babies are surviving and blindness among them is common.
"If such babies are diagnosed early, laser surgery can help restore much of their vision. Detection is a hurdle as resources and exposure are limited. As a result, surgery is the only option, which may not help after a point," said Gadkari.
Sight Savers International, a UK–based NGO donated a Rs 70 lakh machine (RETCAM) to the Desai hospital to detect RoP.
"This machine has helped detect at least 48 cases, mostly in rural Maharashtra. Of these, 40 were in the early stage and were cured with laser technique. The rest were operated upon."
Leaving infants untreated would mean a huge loss to society, said Gadkari. "The operation at our hospital costs about Rs 13,000. In private hospitals, it may go up to Rs 1 lakh. We have operated upon eight infants in a year as against the target of one set by the NGO," said Sucheta Kulkarni, deputy director and chief retina consultant at H V Desai eye hospital.
It will also conduct a study on the benefits of the treatment in the last three years.