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Indian Retinopathy of Prematurity Society ( iROP) has raised concern over the ignorance associated with Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), a disease which, if not diagnosed and treated early in a new born baby, can leave the child blind for life.
Members of the society informed that ROP usually occurs in preterm babies born below two-kg weight. Speaking about the treatment for ROP, Dr Anand Vinekar, secretary, iROP, said, "In India, retina specialists required to treat this disease are just 800. Recent estimates show that approximately 3,000 preterm children are turning blind for life in India and the number is likely to rise. A major problem in improving the screening coverage is shortage of ROP specialists. To address this, we are at present training paramedical staff for use of telemedicine and use of technology for ROP screening. Accreditation and validation of ROP practitioners is also on the cards to ensure quality work.”
To address the issue of lack of awareness about this disease, the society which is now in its second year, is planning initiatives to educate people about the need for early diagnosis of ROP especially among premature babies.
Dr Rajvardhan Azad, president, iROP, said, "In India, 30 million children are born every year out of which 0.3 million need to be screened for ROP. According to our estimate, close to 20,000 children across India are today at risk to develop complete blindness due to this disease.”
Azad further stated that ROP can be treated if it is diagnosed within four weeks or maximum eight weeks of birth and treated immediately.
Dr Subhadra Jalali, associate director, LV Prasad Eye Institute, stated that the importance of checking eyes immediately after birth or within a month has not yet been understood and many find it unnecessary, which is wrong.
"Child blindness is highest in India, which can be prevented if there is awareness about early diagnosis. Once diagnosed with ROP, the treatment has to be done immediately. After treatment, the child can attend normal school, work on computers and do everything normally,” she added.
Dr Sucheta Kulkarni, organising secretary, iROP and medical director, HV Desai eye hospital, said, “Usually, ROP specialists are located in urban centres. Due to this, rural babies are at more risk of developing blindness due to lack of access to specialists. To address this issue, digital wide field cameras are being used in few centres for ROP screening. The advantage of this is that the paramedical staff can also use it. So, a baby admitted in rural hospital can also get screened for ROP. Images captured on the camera can be sent to urban centres for diagnosis. This can help in bridging the gap between rural babies and urban specialists.” She added that a group of specialists are also planning to take the matter forward to the government and make ROP screening legally mandatory.