Blindness : Common conditions leading to blindness in India

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However well prepared one is to face adversity, getting blind is a tragedy which devastates not just the individual but the  whole family. People go blind in their primes, often by the mistakes which could have been avoided by simple precautions. Some useful tips which can make people are extra cautious so as to keep their eye safe.

A usual story in a hospital emergency:

A school teacher brought his six years old son with penetrating injury in the eye by needle of a discarded syringe .  The boy was playing with other children and got hold of a discarded syringe with sharp needle from somewhere. It’s no surprise to see people casually discarding the used syringes in household waste. While playing with it, he got himself injured .

The child presented in emergency with infection in the eyeball (endophthalmitis) resulting from the penetration of that contaminated needle. With everything said and done, child went blind in that eye, for rest of his life. And it was irreversible.

Why did it happen?

Out of 1.4 million blind children in the world, two thirds are living in the developing countries. Unfortunately 50% of the blindness is due to causes that are currently not treatable or preventable. But rest half is due to reasons which are absolutely preventable. What is more surprising is the fact the precautionary measures do not cost anything significant.

One sixth of the childhood blindness is due to eye injuries. Injury to eye affects one in 25 people in urban population in India, and one in 167 people in this population are estimated to be blind in at least one eye due to injuries. The majority of the injuries resulting in blindness occurs during childhood and young adulthood, and slightly more than half occurs while playing.

Injuries in children occur either because of unsafe domestic environment or employment of children in agriculture and other industries. Unattended access of children to sharp objects like knives, needles, bow and arrows , pointed stationary items etc. are the reason for that. Mothers are often busy in domestic chorus to attend children.

Fire cracker injuries

In spite of clear government regulations prohibiting the access of the fire crackers to children less than 18 years of age, the most common age group of receive fire cracker injury in eyes , are children between 10-15 yrs. Age. This is because parents can spare money to purchase firecrackers but not the time to attend to children when they are playing with it.

One third of the children go blind due to lack of  spectacles for refractive errors which is  easily avoidable. All that parents have to do is to be cautious of any problem child has in seeing while playing with toys or reading, or if eyes are not straight. If they find anything suspicious, consult a eye doctor. A pair of spectacle cost around 400-500 INR.

One in every sixth children going blind is due to vitamin A deficiency. If you are reading this post, it’s unlikely you have any children in your family who is at risk of vitamin A Deficiency. But it is very much likely that that your servant or driver has a child who is at risk. Vitamin A deficiency is sign of malnutrition which is in turn common in people living in poverty. Ask them to ensure that child has received vitamin A supplementation offered free in government hospital to all children.

What should be done?

  1. Always keeps sharp and pointed items away from children.
  2. Keep an eye on children when they are playing.
  3. No fire crackers.
  4. Observe the children eyes and his/her ability to see the common things around.
  5. Educate poor and underprivileged around you, regarding protection and vitamin A supplementation.

Another usual story

Twenty years old young guy working as laborer in a sugar mill presented in emergency with one of eye injured with an iron rod. He was bleeding profusely and his father was in tears. Father was cursing the sugar mill administrators for spoiling his son’s life. When asked whether he was wearing any protective glasses while working, he said, he has no idea about any such glasses. These are available at hardware stores for 90 rupees.

The damaged eye has to be removed to prevent infection and bleeding. He was left permanently blind with one eye and a disfigured face with an empty eye socket .

Why did it happen?

Unsafe work environments

Eye Injury while working in unsafe working environment is another major cause of blindness acquired in youth. Usual story is some sharp object or a splinter penetrates in the unprotected eye, as the person is not wearing  protective glasses.

Why do they don’t wear it? Of course there are government regulations, but who has time to enforce them. Most of the people engaged in these jobs are poor and less educated, are in informal sectors. Employers have no interest in their protection. Victims are often young and stupid

Road traffic accidents:

Use of a two wheeler is very common, but not so the use of hamlets. The road traffic accidents are commonly associated with head injury, and injuries to the eyes are associated with it.

Sport related injuries.

Injury with the fast moving balls in sports like cricket and lawn tennis is another reason young adults present with injuries in eyes. Absence of protective eye gears is the main reason.

What can we do?

  1. Educate about vitamin A supplementation.  If you are reading this blog, again you neither engage in these sight threatening jobs, nor need eye protection gears. But you must be out sourcing these jobs to people who are too dumb to see that they can injure themselves, or smart enough to use protective eye gears. You can ask them to do so, make it a precondition that they will wear it if they have to work on your contract or premises.

  2. Helmet and other eye protection gears

Still another usual story?

56 yrs old legal practitioner presents with sudden loss of vision in one eye for last one week. He had diabetes for 11 years. He could barely see his way with his better eye. When asked about the treatment, he said he was on and off homeopathy drugs. There was nothing like control of blood sugar, and is usually in range of 300-350 mg%. when asked why was he so casual in his treatment, he said, its because he never had any problem with high blood sugar.

He had a bad form of diabetic eye disease in both the eyes, with one eye totally destroyed. After best treatment he could barely see at one meter from him, with his better eye. Every time he comes, he pleads to do something about his eyes so that he can read. His family is in financial mess as could not practice.


The sedentary lifestyle and changed eating habits have increased the incidence of the diabetes and consequently the cases of people losing their sight due to eye disease due to diabetes. The access to the treatment of diabetes is definitely a challenge in the society. Ignorance of the fact that the long standing uncontrolled disease will cause failure of many organ systems in the body, only adds to this burden. People are not careful as diabetes per say does not cause much physical discomfort.

Glaucoma glaucoma is another silent predator. it is of two types. Painless and painful. One that is painless is often diagnosed late often during the routine examination of eyes by an eye doctor.

What can be done?

  1. If you are not a diabetic, do not be one.
  2. Strict diabetes control. You must realize that drugs only control the sugar levels, if you restrict your sugar intake and exercise regularly. if you think taking pill is all you have to do, than you are seriously mistaken.
  3. Regular eye checkup. If you are above forty, you should see an ophthalmologist once a year. If you have diabetes, and a regular eye examination is even more important, to catch the diabetic eye disease as early as possible.

These are few simple precautions everybody should follow. please comment on the issues which can also be included in the list.

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