What is the leading cause of blindness in children?

31 Aug 2023
What is the leading cause of blindness in children?

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) appears to be the leading cause of childhood blindness, reveals a recent study in the US. More than half of these blind patients have had a treatable cause of blindness.

A cross-sectional study was conducted to investigate the causes of childhood blindness in the US using the Intelligent Research in Sight (IRIS) Registry. The authors assessed patients aged ≤18 years with visual acuity (VA) 20/200 or worse in their better-seeing eye in 2018. They classified the causes of blindness by anatomic site and specific diagnoses.

A total of 81,164 children with 2018 VA data in the IRIS Registry were identified. Of these, 961 (1.18 percent) had VA 20/200 or worse in their better-seeing eye.

ROP in 301 patients (31.3 percent) was the leading cause of blindness, followed by nystagmus in 78 patients (8.1 percent), and cataract in 64 patients (6.7 percent). The leading anatomic site was the retina (47.7 percent), followed by the optic nerve (11.6 percent), and lens (10.0 percent).

Notably, 52.4 percent of children had treatable cause of blindness.

“[T]his article highlights that approximately 50 percent of paediatric blindness in the United States is likely treatable and is associated with retinal pathology,” the authors said. “This should refocus our attention on what we can identify, treat, and prevent.”

“We know that early intervention can reduce adverse outcomes and that continuing functional success requires access to eye care providers for refractive and amblyopic management,” they added.

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