Madhuri Shejwal was flattered when people complimented her new-born baby’s large beautiful eyes. Little did she know that the child’s eyes were ‘large’ because of a blindness-causing disorder named glaucoma.
“It was my curiosity that made me consult a doctor,” recalled Arun Shejwal, 30, a Thane resident who thanks his luck that he noticed that baby Pallavi’s left eye seemed slightly larger than the other.
“Glaucoma is caused due to increased pressure in the eye. In children it is quite rare — one in 40,000 children suffers from it,” said Dr Ashwin Sainani, paediatric ophthalmologist, Hinduja Hospital, who diagnosed Pallavi and operated on her. “She is now eight months old, and her check-up recently revealed that the timely surgery had restored 100% vision,” said Shejwal.
According to paediatric ophthalmologists, hundreds of infants in the city with congenital eye-related problems pay a hefty price because of their parents’ lack of awareness about these problems.
When Kandivili resident Ashok Lapasia found out that his new-born baby had a cataract in her left eye, his first reaction was disbelief. “How can a two-month-old need surgery for cataract?” he asked.
Globally, the incidence of childhood cataract is six per 10,000 live births. However, according to WHO, children in India are five times more prone to congenital cataract than their western counterparts.
Along with childhood cataract, glaucoma, retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) and squint are some of the leading causes of blindness or eye problems among children. “Ask your neonatologist or paediatrician to examine the child’s eyes at the time of birth. This is even more important if the baby is premature,” said Dr Keiki Mehta, ophthalmic surgeon, who sees about 15 cases of childhood cataract in a month.