The ophthalmology department of the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, in collaboration with the National Program for Eye Health and a team of doctors from Australia, examined and treated between 120 and 130 Cambodian children in a four-day free of charge service which ended October 6.
During the four days of examinations, parents and guardians from the provinces and capital of Cambodia whose children have eye problems brought them to Phnom Penh for treatment.
A team of doctors Cambodia and Australia examined and treated from 30 to 40 children each day.
Sok Kheng, manager of the children’s ophthalmology unit, said the majority of the patients suffered from refractive errors, which could be corrected with spectacles.
Some of the common visual impairments which could be corrected with lenses included blurred vision and astigmatisms.
“Apart from refractive errors, there were other problems, including a pronounced squint. Some of these were congenital, and some developed when the children were two or three years old. The most serious problem we encountered was children with retinal detachment. This is generally associated with premature, underweight births,” she said.
She explained that premature or underweight infants require oxygen for a long period, which poses a challenge to an eye condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity. Children who are born prematurely or underweight should have their eyes examined not later than six months after they are born, to ensure that they do not require treatment for this condition.
“We also saw many cases related to cataracts in preterm infants. In addition, we found some cataracts which were the result of accidents or congenital diseases. We also discovered some impairment issues related to genetics,” she added.
Chhin Chanthyda, 40, from Svay Chrum commune, Khsach Kandal district, Kandal province, brought her premature son for treatment, saying he was born in the sixth month of her pregnancy at a private maternity hospital, and then kept in an incubator for 12 days.
Doctors told her that due to oxygen deprivation, her son was unlikely to survive, but he was treated at Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital and was now seven months old.
She said that the doctor’s at Kanthan Bopha had told her to get her son’s eyes checked at the Khmer-Soviet Hospital, and that she was grateful for the efforts of the Cambodian and Australian doctors who examined her son.
Although the infant could not see at all when his treatment began, he had regained his sight. With further treatment, she was confident that he would regain perfect vision.
Ngo Gechhong, 42, from Siem Reap, heard about the opportunity to be treated by the Australian-Cambodian team and brought her 11-year-old daughter for treatment. Kimchou, her daughter, has clear vision in only one eye with the other blurred – commonly called a lazy eye, or amblyopia.
She said she hoped that after the treatment, her daughter’s eyesight would be clearer.
Kimchou described her excitement at the prospect of being able to enjoy books.
Nguon Ratha, 35, from Svay Rieng province, told The Post that both of her daughter’s eyes had a pronounced squint. The doctors had given her good advice, and she expected her daughter’s condition to improve.
Meanwhile, Un Chetra, 50, from Koh Kong province, said that her daughter had lost focus in one eye after swimming in the sea. When she attends school, she cannot see the blackboard clearly, making learning challenging.
“My child has a lot of difficulty studying. I hope this treatment will restore her vision, so she can catch up at school,” she said.
In addition to working with this team of Australians, the Khmer-Soviet Hospital also cooperates regularly with other institutions. They are currently working with Sight For All of Australia, an eye health project which not only focuses on pediatric treatment but also eye problems such as glaucoma and retinal detachment in adults.
Kheng reminded parents that if a baby is born prematurely or underweight, they should bring them for retinal examination a month after he or she was born.