One major area of development at risk for premature babies is their eyesight, says Loren Stow. While the most common condition associated with prematurity and vision is Retinopathy of Prematurity, all babies born premature are at an increased risk of developing vision problems.
What Is Retinopathy Of Prematurity?
The American National Eye Institute (NEI) explains that babies born before 31 weeks gestation and who weigh 1 250 g or less are at highest risk of developing Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), a condition where the blood vessels of the eye develop abnormally and may lead to permanent vision loss. These abnormal blood vessels are delicate and can leak, which can cause scarring on the retina and even pull it out of place – also called retinal detachment.
There are progressive levels of ROP ranging from mild to severe; in the mild cases the condition will usually resolve itself without treatment. However, in more severe cases, treatment is needed to prevent permanent blindness. The NEI explains that most of the time premature babies develop mild cases of ROP; however, for a small number of babies the condition can become severe rather quickly.