A fifth of children in Mumbai’s Dharavi have eye defects that could cause blindness | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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A fifth of children in Mumbai’s Dharavi have eye defects that could cause blindness

The door-to-door survey of 1,000 children between three and 15 years revealed that nearly 200 had refractive errors such as myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism.  

mumbai Updated: Sep 20, 2017 15:35 IST
Aayushi Pratap

Two of every five children in Mumbai’s Dharavi slum have uncorrected refractive errors, which put them at risk of visual impairment and blindness, according to a pilot study conducted by a Wadala-based eye hospital. Refractive errors are the second leading cause of blindness across the globe, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), but can be easily diagnosed and corrected by wearing glasses.

The door-to-door survey of 1,000 children between three and 15 years revealed that nearly 200 had refractive errors such as myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism.  

Dr Radhika Krishnan, ophthalmologist at Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital, Wadala, who recently presented data from the study to the government, said that myopia was the commonest refractive error diagnosed in the children. In myopia, which is also referred to as near-sightedness, patients can see nearby objects clearly, but objects far away appear blurry.

“Unlike many other health problems, children don’t usually complain about vision-related problems. They adjust it by sitting close to the blackboard in class or holding the books really close to the face,” she said.

Nearly 50% of the parents of the children who were diagnosed with refractive errors said they were unaware of the problem and that they didn’t have the financial means to take their child for a regular eye check up. Medical literature estimates that the national average of people in India with refractive errors ranges between 9 to 14%, said Dr Krishnan. However, literature available in the country, is limited, she added.

Prevalence of blindness due to refractive error among those aged over 40 years in an Indian study population was reported to be quite high- 1.06% of the population by WHO.

Doctors said that refractive errors can be easily diagnosed in children and adults during a routine visit to the clinic, and can be corrected by wearing corrective glasses.

Dr Hemalatha Vidyashankar, consultant paediatric ophthalmologist at the hospital, however, said it works best if the condition is diagnosed and corrected before the age of 7. “Say if a child has a refractive error left untreated, the brain eventually stops recognising signals from that eye and it becomes a lazy eye. Later in life, inspite of wearing glasses, the vision remains hazy,” she said.

The authors of the study plan to expand it to other slums of Mumbai in the coming months. “

Types of refractive errors

Myopia: It is a progressive condition in which people can see nearby objects clearly, but objects far away appear blurred

Hyperopia: It is also a progressive condition, in which patients can see far away objects clearly, but nearby objects appear blurred

Astigmatism: It is a condition in which the shape of the cornea is distorted resulting in watery eyes