Usually, eye problems become more common with age. However, there are many many eye conditions that are present from birth and can affect a child’s eyesight. One such eye condition is retinopathy of prematurity. It is a disorder that primarily affects premature infants. The smaller the baby at the time of the birth, the more likely that infant is likely to develop the condition. As it is one of the most common causes of loss of vision in children, it is important that parents are well aware of the disease
- What happens when retinopathy of prematurity occurs? The eye condition makes blood vessels grow abnormally. These vessels tend to leak or bleed, which scars the retina and cause retinal detachment — this can cause loss of vision.
- What are the causes of retinopathy of prematurity? During the normal course of pregnancy, the blood vessels start growing in the retina and by the 8th month, they fully develop. However, in the case of premature babies, the normal growth of vessels is disrupted, leading to abnormal growth. This can cause the vessels to leak and bleed and thus affecting the vision.
- How is retinopathy of prematurity diagnosed? As there are no early symptoms of the eye condition, the only way to diagnose the problem is through an eye examination.
- Are there different stages of retinopathy of prematurity? Yes, retinopathy of prematurity affects infants differently. The condition has been classified into 5 stages — the first stage is the mildest and the fifth stage is the most severe condition where the retina is completely detached. The infant can have a severe visual impairment and even blindness if no treatment is sought.
- Can the retinopathy of prematurity cause other complications? Yes, infants born with the condition are at higher risk for developing eye problems, such as retinal detachment, myopia, amblyopia (lazy eye) and glaucoma.
- What are the treatment options for retinopathy of prematurity? How the eye condition is treated depends on its severity. Some of the treatment options are:
- Laser surgery: This is one of the most preferred treatment options for retinopathy of prematurity. This is used for burning away the area around the edge of the retina, which has no normal blood vessels. This saves the sight in the main visual field.
- Injection: A medicine is injected into the eye. This might be done as an alternative to, or along with, laser surgery. This allows the blood vessels to grow more normally.
- Vitrectomy: For advanced cases of retinopathy of prematurity, vitrectomy is done. This complex surgery removes the vitreous (the clear gel in the eye) and replaces it with a saline solution. This prevents retinal detachment. This surgery is complex and takes several hours.
Any child who has retinopathy of prematurity and has undergone treatment should have regular and yearly eye exams even during adulthood.
For paediatric eye conditions like retinopathy of prematurity, paediatric strabismus, paediatric cataract, amblyopia, and paediatric glaucoma, book an appointment with one of our eye consultants.