As a leader in eye care, paediatric and children’s eye care has always had a very special place in Sankara Nethralaya’s endeavours towards eliminating blindness. The institution is credited as a pioneer and active player in this branch of ophthalmology, having developed special protocols in the diagnosis and treatment of children. As an institution with a firm belief that preventive eye care is the best form of avoiding blindness, it is well aware that detection/diagnosis and treatment in childhood is a major step in this direction, as eye ailments like most other health issues can be better diagnosed and treated at their early stages.
Dr Meenakshi Swaminathan, a senior consultant of the institution’s paediatric ophthalmology department being chosen to train paediatric ophthalmologists in China under ‘Children’s healthy eyes bring educational reward’ (CHEER) a joint initiative between ICO and ORBIS China chapter, the institution being identified by ORBIS to screen a large number of children in rural parts of India as a part of its goal towards eliminating childhood blindness globally, being accorded a pride of place in the ‘Limca book of records’ for screening the highest number of school children in a single day, are just a few examples of the care and concern that the institution has for this segment and its milestones in the same.
The institution made a very special gift to the segment close to its heart on the 14th of November 2017, being celebrated as ‘Children’s Day’ with a revolutionary solution to ‘Myopia’ or near sightedness, a refractive ailment which is the cause for a disturbingly high percent of vision impairment in this group. It launched a multi-pronged attack on ‘Myopia’ with the week from the 14th to 18th of November being observed as ‘Myopia Week’ with posters creating awareness on the ailment being displayed in the Paediatric ophthalmology department, a panel discussion by paediatric ophthalmologists, a meeting with parents of children in the vulnerable age group, followed by a press meet to take the message across to the public and an open house screening of children for ‘Myopia’.
Dr. Meenakshi Swaminathan, Senior Consultant, Pediatric Ophthalmology, Dr S.Viswanathan, DGM Optical Services, Sankara Nethralaya, who had recently been honoured with a PhD by the Anglia Ruskin University, UK for his in-depth research on ‘Myopia’ and leading paediatric ophthalmologists from the city enlightened the audience on ‘Myopia’ and steps to keep it at bay or check its progression. The speakers highlighted the age group in which ‘Myopia’ is prevalent, they emphasised that spending more time playing in the outdoors and less in front of the TV, computer screen, mobile phone and appropriate vision therapy can help in delaying or avoiding its onset. They cautioned that if left unchecked ‘Myopia’ could lead to progressive reduction of vision which would necessitate wearing of glasses that would keep getting progressively thicker every year and on a more serious angle it could lead to more critical eye ailments like cataract, glaucoma and even retinal detachment as the children reached their adulthood.
This was followed by the most awaited event of the day, the launch of ‘Myopin’ a highly effective and proven drug which could delay the onset and progression of ‘Myopia’ among children between 6-12 years, by Dr TS.Surendran, a veteran of Pediatric ophthalmology and Vice Chairman, Sankara Nethralaya. Interestingly the drug whose generic name is ‘Atropine’ is being used with a good degree of success in Singapore and parts of South East Asia but is still not common in the advanced West. The drug to be launched was subjected to stringent tests for efficacy and safety under a study termed ‘ATOM’ (Atropine for the treatment of childhood myopia) by leading institutions like AIIMS etc. It is noteworthy to mention here that the drug which was available largely as a compound, which was formulated on the spot, is being successfully developed as a ready to administer drug and launched in India, thanks to the strong encouragement and initiative taken by Dr Meenakshi Swaminathan, Senior Consultant at the Paediatric ophthalmology department and Director-Academics, Sankara Nethralaya. The drug would be manufactured by Ms Appaswamy Ocular Devices, at their manufacturing unit at Solan, Himachal Pradesh.