Glow of the Month: Retinopathy of Prematurity

Posted on 2017-02-17

What to Know About Newborn Eyesight

Having a baby is a very joyful time in your life. Along with the joy, though, comes a lot of questions about the health and care for your baby. This is especially true with babies that are born prematurely. One possible condition that may affect your premature baby is Retinopathy of Prematurity.

Retinopathy of Prematurity

Retinopathy of Prematurity is an eye condition that affects premature infants. Boston Children’s Hospital estimates that Retinopathy of Prematurity affects about half of the 28,000 premature babies born each year, with 10 percent of those babies then requiring medical treatment. Retinopathy of Prematurity, also referred to as ROP, is one of the leading causes of childhood vision loss.

ROP has five stages of severity. Mild forms of Retinopathy of Prematurity can resolve themselves with no vision loss, while severe forms may cause blindness is both eyes. The American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus says that birth weight and gestational age are the biggest risk factors in determining the severity of ROP.

What Causes Retinopathy of Prematurity?

Retinopathy of Prematurity is caused by the development of abnormal blood vessels. In premature babies, these abnormal blood vessels can spread quickly across the retina and may lead to retinal detachment. In severe cases where the retina detaches fully, this may cause blindness.

How Do I Know if my Baby Has Retinopathy of Prematurity?

Premature babies should be screened for all at-risk diseases soon after birth. An ophthalmologist can screen for ROP during a retinal exam of the babies eyes at the hospital. Sometimes, it is not diagnosed until several weeks after birth. This makes it important that your premature baby have their eyes screened four to six weeks after they are born.

How is Retinopathy of Prematurity Treated?

Treatment of ROP depends on the severity of the case. While some cases of ROP may resolve on their own, severe cases of ROP may require surgical treatments. According to the National Eye Institute, severe cases of Retinopathy of Prematurity are most effectively treated by laser therapy and cryotherapy. Cryotherapy is where physicians use a freezing instrument to touch spots on the surface of the eye, slowing or reversing the development of abnormal blood vessels. ROP can also be treated by injections of medicine to the eye, a relatively new treatment, or by vitrectomy, which is a surgical treatment that replaces the vitreous of the eye with a salt solution. This allows for the removal of scar tissue and prevents the retina from detaching. ROP may also lead to other vision conditions, such as lazy eye, nearsightedness, crossed eyes and glaucoma. Always consult your physician for the best treatment plan for your infant.

Are you concerned that your child may be exhibiting signs of vision loss or “The Glow?” Have your child’s vision screened by a medical or vision professional if you have any questions. Have other questions about Know The Glow and our mission to eliminate preventable childhood blindness? Visit our Facebook page, Instagram account @know_the_glow or explore the rest of the website to learn more.