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Middle East Afr J Ophthalmol. 2011 Apr;18(2):109-14. doi: 10.4103/0974-9233.80698.

Severe visual impairment and blindness in infants: causes and opportunities for control.

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1
Dr. Gogate's Eye Clinic, Pune, India.

Abstract

Childhood blindness has an adverse effect on growth, development, social, and economic opportunities. Severe visual impairment (SVI) and blindness in infants must be detected as early as possible to initiate immediate treatment to prevent deep amblyopia. Although difficult, measurement of visual acuity of an infant is possible. The causes of SVI and blindness may be prenatal, perinatal, and postnatal. Congenital anomalies such as anophthalmos, microphthalmos, coloboma, congenital cataract, infantile glaucoma, and neuro-ophthalmic lesions are causes of impairment present at birth. Ophthalmia neonatorum, retinopathy of prematurity, and cortical visual impairment are acquired during the perinatal period. Leukocoria or white pupillary reflex can be cause by congenital cataract, persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous, or retinoblastoma. While few medical or surgical options are available for congenital anomalies or neuro-ophthalmic disorders, many affected infants can still benefit from low vision aids and rehabilitation. Ideally, surgery for congenital cataracts should occur within the first 4 months of life. Anterior vitrectomy and primary posterior capsulotomy are required, followed by aphakic glasses with secondary intraocular lens implantation at a later date. The treatment of infantile glaucoma is surgery followed by anti-glaucoma medication. Retinopathy of prematurity is a proliferation of the retinal vasculature in response to relative hypoxia in a premature infant. Screening in the first few weeks of life can prevent blindness. Retinoblastoma can be debulked with chemotherapy; however, enucleation may still be required. Neonatologists, pediatricians, traditional birth attendants, nurses, and ophthalmologists should be sensitive to a parent's complaints of poor vision in an infant and ensure adequate follow-up to determine the cause. If required, evaluation under anesthesia should be performed, which includes funduscopy, refraction, corneal diameter measurement, and measurement of intraocular pressure.

KEYWORDS:

Childhood Blindness; Congenital Anomalies; Congenital Cataract; Retinopathy of Prematurity

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