39 prematurely born babies in Noida saved from going blind

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New Delhi, Oct 13, 2022, IANS

A Noida-based hospital saved 39 prematurely born babies, suffering from advanced stages of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), from going blind.

Noida-based ICARE Eye Hospital, conducted eye screening of 396 premature and low-birth-weight babies born in various hospitals in Noida between January and September 2022. It found 39 of them suffering from advanced stages of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a disease that would have led to blindness if not detected and treated in time. The babies, who would have turned blind in just three to four weeks after birth, were provided immediate treatment by eye doctors at ICARE Hospital, saving their vision.

The neonatal infants screened included those born at Noida's Apollo Hospital, Yathartha Hospital, Felix Hospital, and Motherhood Hospital, as well as others referred to ICARE Eye Hospital. As per studies from different states in India, almost 10 to 15 per cent of all premature babies are detected with advanced ROP. Babies born with this condition can turn blind in less than a month after birth if left untreated.

Dr. Saurabh Choudhry, CEO, ICARE Eye Hospital, Noida said, "We are extremely delighted that these premature babies were screened by our eye doctors within a few days of birth, and the disease was detected in time. Retinopathy of Prematurity carries a very serious risk of blindness. About 2,00,000 pre-term babies born in India every year are at risk of developing retinopathy of prematurity. About 5,000 of them go blind due to this entirely preventable cause of childhood blindness."

He added, "Premature delivery, low birth weight, multiple pregnancies, respiratory distress, NICU admission, and unregulated oxygen therapy are important risk factors for ROP. An eye checkup done within 4 to 6 weeks after the birth of a premature baby can identify this disease. We need more awareness in society about the importance of conducting eye screening of babies born premature or with low birth weight.

India accounts for the highest number of premature births in the world (3.5 million). About one in six (about 6,00,000) children out of these are born at 32 weeks or less gestational age. Estimating that 40 per cent of these receive neonatal care and 80 per cent of them survive, about 2,00,000 children are at the risk of developing ROP in India every year. If 10 per cent of them develop treatable ROP, the number of newborns needing ROP management is at least 20,000 every year.

ROP is a sight-threatening disease of the retina that can lead to permanent blindness if left untreated. It occurs due to abnormal proliferation of developing retinal blood vessels in premature and infants with low birth weight. In its severe form, ROP causes total retinal detachment, leading to blindness. ROP occurs due to premature delivery, so it is not preventable. However, with timely intervention (within a few weeks of birth), it can be cured, and permanent vision loss prevented. Treatment of ROP includes laser therapy and intravitreal injections. In severe cases, vitreoretinal surgery is recommended.