Premature Babies and Vision Problems

eye chart duck toys

Being born too early can have a profound effect on your child's health. In addition to early concerns about lung development and intestinal issues, prematurity may also cause vision problems. Despite vision complications, many children who were born prematurely do have usable vision, thanks to early interventions. These six eye diseases and conditions may occur in babies born prematurely.

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP)

ROP primarily affects babies that weigh less than 2 3/4 pounds and are born before 31 weeks' gestation, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI). The disease occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow in the retina and interfere with normal vision. The retina is the light-sensing layer that lines the back of the eye and sends light impulses to the brain, where they're converted into images.

In some cases, the abnormal blood vessels leak, making vision even worse. Scar tissue formation can also affect vision and may cause the retina to detach from the back of the eye in the most severe form of the disease. Retinal detachment may result in partial or complete blindness if treatment isn't successful.

Fortunately, 90 percent of babies who have ROP develop normal vision and never need any type of treatment. Every year, 1,110 to 1,500 babies are born with a severe form of the disease that does requires treatment, reports the NEI.

Babies who had breathing problems, seizures, infections, heart disease, anemia or other health problems, or required blood transfusions or mechanical ventilation are at increased risk of developing the disease. In the past, babies who received high levels of oxygen in the neonatal intensive care unit were more likely to develop ROP. Today, oxygen levels are more closely monitored to reduce the risk.

ROP treatment stops or slows the growth of abnormal blood vessels by destroying the outer edges of the retina with lasers or cryotherapy (freezing). Because the outer portions of the retina are responsible for peripheral vision, your child will lose a little side vision after treatment.

Other treatments for ROP include vitrectomy, a procedure that replaces the gel inside the eye with saline solution, and a scleral buckle, a silicone band placed around the white part of your child's eyes. Both treatments can help prevent retinal detachments.

Myopia

Children who are born early may be more likely to develop myopia, or nearsightedness. The condition occurs when your child can see near objects more clearly than objects in the distance. Prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses offer a very effective way to correct your child's vision. Convincing young children to wear eyeglasses may sound like a difficult task, but many babies and toddlers don't object to the glasses when they notice the improvement in their vision.

Strabismus

Strabismus, commonly called "crossed eyes" may cause an eye to turn down, up or to either side. Not surprisingly, misalignment of the eyes can make it much more difficult for your child to see properly. Treatment options for strabismus include patching the stronger eye, eyeglasses, prism lenses or surgery on the muscles that control eye movement.

Ambylopia

Ambylopia, or "lazy eye," often develops in conjunction with strabismus. If your child has ambylopia, vision in the eye is turned off, due to a problem with the connection between the brain and the eye. Diagnosing and treating ambylopia at young age can help your child avoid permanent vision loss. Common ambylopia treatments include patching, vision therapy and eyeglasses or drops that blur vision in the "good" eye, forcing the "bad" eye to become stronger.

Cataracts

Prematurity may also increase your child's risk of developing cataracts. Although cataracts most often occur in older people, they can be present at birth or develop during childhood. Cataracts occur when the normally clear lens located behind your child's iris becomes cloudy. Although cataracts don't interfere with vision when they're small, they can cause blurred vision as they grow and interfere with the connection between the brain and the eye. If your child has cataracts, he or she may be more likely to also develop ambylopia. Glasses or contact lenses may help improve your child's vision initially, but surgery is usually recommended if the cataract is large.

Loss of Peripheral Vision

Peripheral vision loss is an unfortunate consequence of laser treatment or cryotherapy used to preserve central vision. Children who have lost some side vision may benefit from prisms lenses that slightly expand their field of view and low vision aids that help them make the most of their vision.

Regular visits to your eye care specialist are particularly important if your child has a vision problem related to prematurity. If it's been a while since we've seen your son or daughter, or he or she is complaining about difficulty seeing, contact us to schedule an appointment.

Sources:

National Eye Institute: Facts About Retinopathy of Prematurity, 6/14

https://nei.nih.gov/health/rop/rop

National Eye Institute: Facts About Retinopathy of Prematurity, 6/14

https://nei.nih.gov/health/rop/rop

March of Dimes: Retinopathy of Prematurity

https://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/retinopathy-of-prematurity.aspx

Review of Optometry: A Clinical Guide of Retinopathy of Prematurity, 12/06

https://www.reviewofoptometry.com/article/a-clinical-guide-to-retinopathy-of-prematurity

MedScape: Visual Problems in Infancy, 8/15/11

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/747775

Locations

Find us on the map

Hours of Operation

Our Regular Schedule

Culpeper Office

Monday:

10:00 am-6:00 pm

Tuesday:

Closed

Wednesday:

10:00 am-6:00 pm

Thursday:

10:00 am-6:00 pm

Friday:

Closed

Saturday:

10:00 am-3:00 pm

Sunday:

Closed

King George Office

Monday:

Closed

Tuesday:

10:00 am-6:00 pm

Wednesday:

Closed

Thursday:

Closed

Friday:

10:00 am-6:00 pm

Saturday:

Closed

Sunday:

Closed

Testimonials

Reviews From Our Satisfied Patients

  • "Dr. Press CARES about his patients, insurance or not AND he is the most thorough eye doctor I have ever been to. The prescription he gave me, made me see correctly, once again, I am so thankful. Dr Press and his staff are great!"
    Katrin H
  • "I'm so glad I changed eye doctors. I had been going to Dr. H by the hospital for a long time and he had given me a prescription for contacts that I tried and tried to wear with no success. Dr. Press gave the right "size" contacts and was able to walk out wearing the contacts with no problem! He has great manners and even took my blood pressure! Glad to have finally found a knowledgeable Optometrist I can SEE in a regular basis."
    Ines P
  • "I recently needed to change my vision prescription and was finally in need of bifocals. I went to see Dr. Miles Press for both convenience (local eye doctor) and because he accepted my insurance. I needed to have vision in my right eye adjusted several times, and several right lenses replaced. Dr.Miles Press worked tirelessly to make sure my vision was correct and I was never charged for each subsequent visit or lens replacement. I've never had an eye doctor like that before, that really cares and is fast and on the ball with knowledge to get you the correct prescription. He also cared that I went with Progressive lenses over bifocals because they provide three fields of view and eliminate the annoying line. To sum it up, an eye doctor that treats you like he would his own family is a rare experience. I will continue to go to Dr. Miles Press as long as he is in business and accepts my insurance. No question."
    Thomas C
  • "I didn't know my vision could change, and I also didn't know that I could see the world more clearly than how I was already seeing it! Dr. Press was professional and very helpful and educating! Highly recommend!"
    Karla N
  • "Dr. Miles Press was very professional, knowledgeable, and friendly. He explained a lot about my eye care that no Dr. has ever taken the time to do."
    Wendy S