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Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) in Premature Babies continued...

Early Treatment Can Help Prevent Vision Loss in Children

ROP has five different stages. A retina specialist who examines a baby with ROP can determine when to monitor the condition and when to treat it based on guidelines. 

Treatment may include:

  • Cryotherapy (freezing) or photocoagulation (laser therapy) to stop blood vessels from growing and keep the retina from pulling away from the back of the eye.
  • Scleral buckling, where a band is placed around the eye. This pushes the eye inward, which helps keep the retina in place against the walls of the eye. The band will be removed in a few months or years.
  • Vitrectomy is a more involved surgery. The vitreous fluid inside the eye is replaced by a saline solution, and scar tissue is removed from inside the eye. This allows the retina to relax in place against the eye wall.

Treatment can help preserve central vision, which allows us to see straight ahead, read, see colors, and drive. Some side vision may be lost as a result of these surgeries.

Potential Complications of Retinopathy of Prematurity

Children who have had ROP have a higher risk of developing certain eye conditions, such as:

  • Myopia (nearsightedness)
  • Strabismus (misalignment of the eyes)
  • Amblyopia (lazy eye)
  • Glaucoma
  • Retinal detachment

Regular eye exams as recommended by an eye specialist are especially important for children who had ROP. If caught early on, most of these conditions can be treated without any vision loss.

Strabismus in Babies

About 4% of children in the U.S have strabismus. Infantile esotropia is a type of strabismus that occurs in premature babies. When the muscles that surround and control the eye don't work together, it causes the eyes to point in different directions. Strabismus is thought to occur in premies because the baby's brain hasn't developed enough to control the eye muscles. Other factors related to strabismus in babies include:

  • Brain or nerve disorders, including water on the brain, bleeding in the brain, seizure disorders, cerebral palsy, and other conditions
  • Retinal damage from ROP
  • A buildup of blood vessels under the skin (hemangioma) near the eye
  • Brain or eye tumors 
  • A cataract or eye injury
  • Developmental delay

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