Article Date: 3/1/2011

Fighting Cataracts Worldwide
Pediatric and Teen CL Care

Fighting Cataracts Worldwide

By Christine W. Sindt, OD, FAAO

Cataract is one of the main causes of blind or visually impaired children worldwide. Cataracts in infancy account for about 10 percent of the world's childhood blindness (Maida et al, 2008). It is estimated that 200,000 children are blind from cataract, and each year 20,000 to 40,000 children are born with congenital cataract (Thylefors, 1998).

Early diagnosis, cataract surgery, and post-operative management are critical to prevent vision loss. Limited access to pediatric ophthalmologists is a major problem in underdeveloped counties, and studies show that pediatric cataract may be overtaking corneal disease as the leading cause of avoidable blindness in some African countries (Kello et al, 2003; Ezegwui et al, 2003). Even if surgery is available, the subsequent amblyopia resulting from poor follow up remains a significant problem.

The most common factors that influence or lead to pediatric cataract include: intrauterine infections, metabolic disorders, and genetically transmitted syndromes. In addition, infectious causes include rubella, rubeola/measles, chicken pox, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex, herpes zoster, poliomyelitis, influenza, Epstein-Barr virus, syphilis, and toxoplasmosis. Many of these are not only preventable, but also treatable with early identification, adequate follow-up care, and low vision services.

Figure 1. Nuclear cataract with vitrector.

Pediatric Cataract Initiative

In 2010, Bausch + Lomb established the Early Vision Institute with a global mission to provide a broad platform for children's eye health research, industry outreach, media commentary, and advocacy. The Early Vision Institute has partnered with the Lion's Club International Foundation to form the Pediatric Cataract Initiative (PCI).

The PCI's goal is to support efforts to improve understanding of the causes and treatment of pediatric cataract through a variety of research initiatives, increasing the capacity of eyecare centers, improving infrastructure and personnel training, performing pediatric cataract surgeries and follow-up care, and informing at-risk populations about preventing pediatric cataract, early detection, and treatment.

In 2010 the PCI offered two small research grants of $50,000 each to qualified individuals, institutions, or organizations investigating the causes of pediatric cataract and/or improved treatment tools and protocols. The grant was intended to support research that could be carried out in 12 months with limited resources. The PCI is also funding programs in the People's Republic of China for projects seeking to improve and expand pediatric prevention and treatment.

Learn More, Get Involved

For more information about pediatric cataract and programs visit the Pediatric Cataract Initiative's Web site at pediatriccataract.org or watch informational videos at youtube.com/PCInitiative. You can follow the PCI at facebook.com/PediatricCataract or at twitter.com/PCInitiative. Through awareness, education, and effort, together we can prevent pediatric blindness. CLS

To obtain references for this article, please visit http://www.clspectrum.com/references.asp and click on document #184.


Dr. Sindt is a clinical associate professor of ophthalmology and director of the contact lens service at the University of Iowa Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. She is also the chair of the AOA Contact Lens and Cornea Section. She has received research funds from Alcon. You can reach her at christine-sindt@uiowa.edu.

Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: March 2011