August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month. A baby’s retina begins to start growing at 16 weeks gestation. The retina will not complete growth until the baby is born. If the baby is born premature, possible abnormal growth of the retina will result in a diagnosis known as Retinopathy of Prematurity.
Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) is a common eye disease diagnosed in premature babies. ROP is defined when there is abnormal blood vessel growth present in the retina. Babies born before 31 weeks of gestation and birth weight less than 2.75 pounds are at higher risk. Around 14,000-16,000 babies are born with ROP in the United States each year. Thankfully, most babies born with ROP have mild cases and do not require treatment. Severe cases of ROP can lead to vision problems and blindness. It is said that 400-600 babies each year will become legally blind from ROP. Moderate to severe cases of ROP will require treatment.
Treatment for ROP may include laser and Anti-VEGF therapy. Laser photocoagulation therapy has a high success rate for ROP. This laser treatment will stop and prevent further abnormal blood vessel growth. Anti-VEGF therapy also is used to treat this disease. Anti-VEGF therapy is an injection of medication into the eye and is done under general anesthesia in babies. The medication injected into the eye blocks the growth of blood vessels in the retina.
ROP does not occur in all premature babies, but it is important to see a pediatric retina specialist to monitor the baby with regular eye exams. Read more about the pediatric retina at Pediatric Retina > Our Services (tnretina.com)
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