Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is caused by an abnormal development of blood vessels of the retina in premature babies. Most ROP resolves without major damage to the retina, however, the more severe cases can be potentially blinding and disabling for children. Babies who are born 1250 grams or less and before 31 weeks gestation are at highest risk of developing retinopathy of prematurity. They should be evaluated and treated initially in the hospital and later as an outpatient for their retinal evaluation.
All premature children should also have a complete eye exam and a close follow up by a pediatric ophthalmologist after their initial retina evaluation and treatment. Premature kids have a higher incident of developing amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (ocular misalignment), refractive error and a need for glasses at an earlier age. Myopia (near sightedness) occurs in 80% of the kids with ROP and up to 47% of the kids with ROP develop strabismus (ocular misalignment). The incident of strabismus decreases to 10-20% of premature children without ROP which remains higher than full term infants. Early detection and treatment by a pediatric ophthalmologist will give your child a better success rate in over coming these problems and better vision for the rest of their lives.
Your child may receive glasses prescription in order to correct refractive error and give them the best vision possible. Other treatments such as patching the eye and medications may be used to correct amblyopia. Surgical correction may be considered in children with ocular misalignment that do not improve with patching and glasses alone.
Early intervention has the best outcome for your child.