An innovative study looking to improve the way babies are screened for cataracts. A key cause of preventable childhood blindness, has started at Queen Alexandra Hospital.

Cataracts cause the lens of the eye to become cloudy and can severely affect a child’s vision development. And potentially lead to permanent vision loss if not identified and treated promptly. The condition affects approximately 1 in every 2,000 babies.

Current screening checks involves shining a bright light to examine their eyes. A method that can be uncomfortable for infants. However, research indicates that this method might not catch all cases.

To improve this. Portsmouth researchers are testing whether digital imaging can more accurately diagnose these cataracts early on.

This cutting-edge technology, called Neocam, captures digital images of the baby’s eye,  without the need for bright lights.

Parents with newborns at Queen Alexandra Hospital are being invited to participate in this study. Which involves their babies undergoing both the standard check and the new Neocam imaging. Allowing a direct comparison of the effectiveness of both techniques.

Consultant Neonatologist Tim Scorrer. Is leading the study at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust (PHU). Which is also taking place at 23 other maternity units across England.

Dr Scorrer said: “Detecting cataracts early in babies means that we can provide treatment to prevent blindness. This new test will help us to work out the best way to do this. And if successful has the potential to change congenital screening internationally.

“We would encourage all new and expectant parents to chat to us and find out more about taking part in the study. There are no further visits needed to the hospital as part of the study. And the Neocam digital imaging will cause no discomfort.”

The study, known as DIvO (Digital Imaging versus Ophthalmoscopy), is significant, requiring over 140,000 babies to participate.

Interested parents can learn more and register to be part of this important work on the DIvO website to prevent childhood blindness: