How common is retinopathy of prematurity (ROP)?
More than 80 percent of premature babies who weigh less than 1 kg will develop retinopathy of prematurity. Improved treatment, including laser to the undeveloped retinal area, has reduced the devastating effects of ROP on the eye, yet worldwide it remains a leading cause of paediatric retinal blindness.
While improvements in medical care enable many of the smallest of premature infants to survive, the rate and severity of retinopathy of prematurity have increased. Although the majority of premature babies will show some degree of ROP, most will not require special treatment. Nevertheless, premature babies have an increased risk of associated eye disease, including strabismus (misalignment of the eyes) and amblyopia (lazy eye), as well as the need for eyeglasses, usually to correct nearsightedness.
Prevention of retinopathy of prematurity
Prenatal care can reduce the risk of premature birth. Careful management of premature babies in the nursery and early screening with timely treatment when indicated can prevent blindness or reduce vision loss in milder cases of ROP.
Treatment of retinopathy of prematurity
Retinopathy of prematurity is most effectively treated with laser surgery to burn the immature areas of the retina, where abnormal blood vessels tend to grow. If the retina detaches, surgery may be performed to re-secure it.
What ORBIS is doing about retinopathy of prematurity in developing countries?
ORBIS is training pediatric ophthalmologists in appropriate and sustainable screening and treatment techniques to prevent blindness in babies with retinopathy of prematurity. In addition, ORBIS is working on a simulation program that will help teach paediatric ophthalmology specialists in developing countries the surgical skills necessary to treat ROP babies.
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