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Premature babies link to rise in child blindness

prembabyPremature babies link to rise in child blindness: Number suffering sight problems after being born early up by 22% in a decade

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•One in 20 severely premature babies likely born blind, research shows
•12% increase in those aged under five registered blind or visually impaired
•A quarter of parents said they had to wait more than a year for diagnosis


The survival of more premature babies could be behind an increase in childhood blindness, scientists have revealed.
The earlier children are born, the greater their risk of suffering from vision impairment – with one in 20 severely premature babies likely to be born blind. Research carried out by the charity Blind Children UK has now estimated that the number of babies developing sight difficulties as a result of being born prematurely has risen by 22 per cent in the past decade. And they found that there has been a 12 per cent increase in the number of UK children under the age of five registered blind or partially sighted since 2006. But a quarter of parents whose children had developed a vision impairment said that they had to wait longer than a year to have their child diagnosed. And more than 40 per cent felt this delay had a 'negative' or 'strongly negative' effect on their child's development because it meant they did not get the support needed from their local authority or school. More than 80 per cent said their child missed out at school because of the disability.

The charity, which says four children in the UK are registered blind or partially-sighted every day, has now put together a list of symptoms to help parents of premature babies watch for early signs of sight loss. These can include a baby’s eyes being red, inflamed, itchy, watery, cloudy, puffy or swollen. Another warning sign is if the centre of their eyes looks white in photographs, if they wobble or are constantly in motion. And parents should take children to see a doctor if they rub their eyes excessively, react with discomfort to bright light or look at things with an unusual head posture.

Lord Chris Holmes, decorated Paralympian and the charity's ambassador said:

"Every day four children in the UK are registered blind or partially sighted."

"Sight loss can leave children feeling isolated and afraid - I know this from personal experience."

"Blind Children UK helps gives children the skills, confidence and support to enable them to enjoy their childhood and reach their potential as adults."

The charity's CEO Richard Leaman said:

"Every day a child with sight loss goes without support, it dramatically affects their development."

"As much as 80 per cent of a sighted child's learning takes place using vision. Without this, it's impossible for a young boy or girl to develop fully and make sense of the world around them."

"We help children and their families tackle all the challenges of sight loss, so that they can enjoy their childhood and fully realise their potential as
adults."

Parents worried about their child should tell their GP or health visitor or doctor who is likely to refer the child to an ophthalmologist who specialises in
examining, diagnosing and treating eyes and eye diseases

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