Retinopathy of Prematurity
Retinopathy of Prematurity
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Many babies who are born prematurely develop an eye condition known as retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). This results from an abnormal growth of blood vessels in the retina, at the back of the eye. Most cases of ROP are mild and cause no serious problem, but sometimes more severe disease develops that must be treated (usually with a laser) to prevent blindness. Dr. Dorfman and Dr. Cardone screen and perform laser surgery on premature infants in neonatal intensive care units in both Dade and Broward County. They are one of only a few ophthalmologists in South Florida who provide this service.

ROP does not develop until a month or more after birth. For this reason, every small premature infant must have an eye examination at 6 weeks. The risk is higher and lasts longer for very small infants, very premature infants, and infants exposed to high oxygen concentrations.

When a baby is found to have ROP, examination of its eyes must be repeated every 1 to 3 weeks until it is clear whether treatment will be necessary, or the condition is getting better on its own.

Because ROP can cause blindness, and because this can usually be prevented if treatment is given at the proper time, it is extremely important for all eye examinations to be done exactly when they are supposed to be. If the baby still needs eye care following discharge from the hospital, appointments for an outpatient examination will be made. You must make sure these appointments are kept.

Examination of a premature baby’s eyes to look for ROP is done in a special way that is quite different from the way an older person’s eyes are usually examined. In most cases, it is necessary to place instruments in the eye that make it possible to see the entire retina. This upsets the baby, but it is not painful because an anesthetic drop is given before starting. Sometimes, the white part of the eye appears red following the examination.

When no ROP develops, or when mild ROP clears, the baby’s eyes usually turn out to be normal. Sometimes though, there is a need for glasses at an early age, or problems such as crossing of the eyes may be seen. For this reason, it is a good idea for any baby who was born prematurely to have its eyes examined again at the age of one, or sooner if you notice anything unusual about the way the eye looks.

When severe ROP develops, even if it is treated properly, the baby’s retinas may become scarred so that vision is reduced in a way that cannot be helped by glasses. If your baby begins to show signs of severe ROP, Dr. Dorfman or Dr. Cardone will explain to you in detail what you should expect.

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