Retinopathy of prematurity is a potentially BLINDING condition caused specifically by prematurity. This is the cause of the great Stevie Wonder’s blindness. The risk factors for retinopathy of prematurity is:
low birth weight (<3lbs)
less than 32 weeks of pregnancy
other associated illnesses
When the infant and eyes are premature, the blood vessels that supply the retina have not reached their full growth. The area of the retina that is without blood vessel is not getting an appropriate amount of nutrients and blood. This “starved” retina secretes a chemical which results in the formation of abnormal blood vessels (like diabetes). Those abnormal blood vessels cause scarring and this scarring detaches the retina, leading to blindness. Fortunately, most infants develop without this occurring. However, they require a dilated exam until the eye reaches maturity.
Treatment for this condition has historically been laser therapy. However, with the introduction of the new medication that is effective in diabetes, medical therapy is now an excellent option for these neonates. Ask your retina specialist which treatment best fits your infant’s needs.
Keith Warren, M.D.
Board Certified Ophthalmologist
Overland Park and Kansas City