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Childhood visual impairment and blindness: 5-year data from a tertiary low vision center in Israel

Abstract

Background

To assess the main causes leading to childhood visual impairment/blindness in a center for low vision in Israel and to analyze the literature on pediatric blinding diseases in developed countries.

Methods

Retrospective study based on observational case series. Data were obtained from medical records of visually impaired children, seen at a national referral low vision center. Children were divided into two groups: moderate visual impairment (6/18 to 6/60) and severe visual impairment (SVI)/blindness (<6/60). Inherited eye diseases (IED) were grouped together for analysis. Data from the Israeli blind registry from the same period of time were analyzed for comparison. A review of literature on childhood blindness in developed countries since 2000 was conducted.

Results

A total of 1393 children aged 0–18 years were included in the study. Moderate visual impairment was seen in 1025 (73.6%) and SVI/blindness in 368 (26.4%) of the studied children. Among blind children, IED accounted for at least 51% of all diagnoses, including mainly albinism and retinal dystrophies. IED prevalence was equally high in both main ethnic groups (Jewish and Arab Muslims). Non-IED (22.6%) included mainly patients with cerebral visual impairment and retinopathy of prematurity.

Conclusions

The leading cause of childhood visual impairment and blindness in our patient cohort was IED. Analyses of the literature from the last two decades show that IED are a major cause for SVI/childhood blindness in other developed countries as well. Updated patterns of global childhood blindness may suggest a need for new approach for screening programs and modern tactics for prevention.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank the Israeli National Registry for the Blind and the Ministry of Welfare in Israel for providing access to the national data on childhood blindness.

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Contributions

CY was responsible for designing the research protocol, analysis and interpretation of data, writing and revising the manuscript. RB, RP, and IS were responsible for collecting and analyzing the data, searching for references, and revising the manuscript. MM and AB were involved in data acquisition, analysis, interpretation and drafting the manuscript. KH was responsible for analysis and interpretation of data, writing and revising the manuscript. All of the authors gave final approval of this version to be published.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Claudia Yahalom.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Yahalom, C., Braun, R., Patal, R. et al. Childhood visual impairment and blindness: 5-year data from a tertiary low vision center in Israel. Eye (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41433-021-01743-3

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