The clouding of the normally clear lenses is termed a cataract. While in most cases, cataracts develop slowly and are often associated with old age, studies now show several other causes can lead to cataracts. Also, it is no longer restricted to old age. Instead, cataract among children is becoming quite prevalent in developing nations.
It has been seen that childhood cataract affects only four per cent of global blindness. However, a third of the economic cost caused due to blindness is due to childhood cataracts. Furthermore, half of childhood cataract is idiopathic. It has been observed that the highest rate of idiopathic childhood cataracts affects the children of developing nations.
Some Facts & Figures About Childhood Cataracts
- It has been estimated that globally 1.4 million children are severely visually impaired or blind.
- Given the limited resources and the majority of the developing nations being in Asia and Africa, three-quarters of the blind children in the world live on these two continents.
- Sixty per cent of the children facing visibility due to corneal issues or cataracts die within a year of becoming blind.
- Forty per cent live without a vision for the rest of their lives, mainly in poverty.
What Causes Childhood Cataracts?
In some childhood cataract cases, poor foetal health, which results in low birth weight, have been associated with childhood cataract. One of the leading causes of poor foetal health in developing nations is maternal malnutrition. Several factors lead to this endemic of malnutrition among pregnant women in developing countries.
The primary cause of poor foetal health is the lack of socioeconomic development in the underserved regions of developing nations and the lack of primary healthcare availability. Also, the lack of a proper diet, which provides the much-needed antioxidants to the lens of the foetus for proper development and forms a source of reserve, is not there in pregnant ladies suffering from malnutrition.
Babies born from mothers who lack the antioxidants and nutrients will not only be underweight but with a lens with low levels of antioxidants. It makes them susceptible to the early onset of cataracts.
Also, if these children are born in higher altitude areas and exposed to UV rays that reflect on the ice, they are prone to a higher risk of developing childhood cataracts. The chances of getting cataracts for these children are increased due to a lack of proper diet, knowledge of how to prevent and slow the cataract progress, and availability of adequate and affordable treatment and cataract surgeries.
Is Affordable Treatment & Surgery Available for These Children?
The UN has called for action to cure blindness with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, 2030 InSight program. So, while philanthropists, doctors, and other organizations have responded to work together to bring this mission to a successful fruition, another individual has been working tirelessly for years to give thousands of people their vision back.
Philanthropist Tej Kohli has partnered with ophthalmology surgeon Dr. Sanduk Ruit to form the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation to give vision back to at least 500,000 people across the world in developing nations. But what sets these two gentlemen’s work apart from the rest is they are putting eye screening camps in regions that are hard to reach by car and foot. They are taking the fight against blindness to the ground zero of the underserved regions.
But that’s not all; tech enthusiast Mr Kohli has been investing in cornea research and developing techniques that make cataract and cornea surgeries affordable for every individual. As a result, in their mission to bring cataract blindness to an end, Tej Kohli and Dr Ruit will be screening 1,000,000 people by 2030 in Nepal, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Ghana, and Tanzania. So far, they have screened 179,022 patients and cured 23,485 people of cataracts, which also includes several children.