Eye Problems in Premature Babies

PLX Academy · News · 04 April 2022

Eye Problems in Premature Babies

Retinopathy of prematurity is an eye problem that happens to premature babies, an eye disorder that can lead to vision loss.  The good news is that not  all babies born prematurely develop the condition and most cases go away without treatment.  Аn eye exam, in the first weeks after birth, is the only way to detect and solve the problem.  

„Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a problem with the blood vessels of the retina, which lines the back of the eye and transmits information through the optic nerve to the brain. In premature babies, the blood vessels of the retina may not have the chance to develop as they should. The earlier a baby is born and the lower the birth weight, the greater the risk for the condition. The condition occurs in stages and can cause bleeding and scarring throughout the retina. This may cause the retina to detach. A detached retina, if left untreated, can cause loss of eyesight very rapidly “ , Faruk H. Orge, MD, Chief of Pediatric Ophthalmology at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, said.

When babies are born weighing less than 1250 grams, the disease occurs in 60 percents of cases and 12 percent of them need to be treated.  Retinopathy of prematurity usually affects both eyes (but can affect one worse than the other), and is the main reason children have vision loss . Your baby’s eyes start to grow around 16 weeks. The most rapid growth happens in the last 12 weeks of pregnancy.  Experts think premature birth interrupts this later growth, leading to ROP.

An eye doctor ( ophthalmologist) will examine your baby’s retinas if your child is considered high-risk. If the condition is present, the ophthalmologist will identify the stage and zone of the retinopathy to decide treatment and timing of follow-up exams.