Pediatric ophthalmology in the developing world


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Abstract

Purpose of reviewIt is estimated that of the 45 million people who are blind worldwide in 2000, 1.4 million are children from middle-income and low-income countries, the majority of whom live in the poorest regions of Africa and Asia. The focus of this paper is to discuss the status of pediatric ophthalmology in developing countries and the progress that has been made in the areas of avoidable childhood blindness and visual impairment, particularly corneal scarring as a result of vitamin A deficiency, congenital cataract and retinopathy of prematurity. In addition, we will review the prevalence of uncorrected refractive error and discuss the access to pediatric ophthalmologists in developing countries.Recent findingsSome developing countries have begun incorporating vitamin A supplementation and measles immunizations and have seen a decrease in xerophthtalmia. With improvement in vitamin A status, cataract is becoming a more apparent cause of treatable childhood blindness. Amblyopia and uncorrected refractive errors are important and inexpensively treatable causes of visual impairment, with myopia being most common. As neonatal intensive care services in middle-income developing countries improve the survival of premature infants, retinopathy of prematurity is emerging as a significant cause of childhood blindness.SummaryChildhood blindness and visual impairment in developing countries remains a significant public health issue, but recent initiatives have shown promise of future improvements.

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