It is not only adults that suffer from serious eye conditions. Infants and children can also be affected by the development of abnormalities within the eye and retina. Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a serious condition that can lead to potential blindness, and should be treated by a board-certified retina specialist like Dr. Shawn Agee or Dr. John Sullivan in Jacksonville, FL. It is a disease caused by the development of abnormal retinal blood vessels, most commonly see in premature infants. This abnormal growth, which can evolve in varying degree and severity, can cause the retina to detach from the back of the eye. This detachment can cause blindness and may need surgery to repair the condition. Some cases of ROP are mild enough that the condition can correct itself, but surgery is often needed to prevent additional vision loss or complete blindness. In most cases, a laser is used to target the retina to stop the growth of the abnormal vessels. We provide compassionate infant and children eye disease treatment at Southeastern Retina Specialists.
Causes and Symptoms
During pregnancy, blood vessels grow from the center of the developing fetus’ retina 16 weeks into the pregnancy, and then extend outward to reach the outer edges roughly about 8 months into the pregnancy. Babies that are born prematurely, retinal vessel growth can be disrupted, which can cause leaking, bleeding, and scarring. If the scars shrink, which is common, the shrinkage has the tendency to pull on the retina causing it to detach. Unfortunately, there is no sign or symptom to alert a physician that this is occurring in the womb. Since the retina is a vital aspect of clear vision, the scarring caused by the bleeding can lead to blurred vision or blindness, which is usually detected during birth when a complete physical exam is being conducted.
Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is usually diagnosed upon a physical eye examination while the baby is at the hospital after birth. There are specific tests that are used to detect how advanced the internal retinal bleeding and scaring is, but an accurate diagnosis can generally be made and treatment started.
Treatment and Prognosis
For ROP cases that require surgery, laser surgery, is the most common approach used. This surgery uses small laser beams that proactively scar the peripheral retina so that the abnormal bleeding and growth can stop. While some peripheral vision may be lost during this procedure, the surgery saves and preserves the central retina, which means the patient will still be able to see straight ahead and perform normal visual functions, such as seeing color and light. Depending on the nature of the case, some patients may benefit from Cryotherapy. This is a procedure where scarring on the peripheral retina is caused by freezing to stop abnormal blood vessel growth. This is a proven method and used to be the primary way to treat ROP until advanced laser treatments were born.
Advanced Cases of ROP
For advanced cases of ROP where detachment has occurred, Vitrectomy surgery is sometimes discussed. This is a complex surgery that involves replacing the vitreous gel in the center of the eye, with a saline solution. When the vitreous is removed, scar tissue is also removed. This helps ease the tugging on the retina that accompanies scar tissue. One an official diagnosis has been made, we will discuss which procedure will offer the most optimal outcome for your infant.
Seek Help Today
If you have a newborn baby who has been diagnosed with ROP and you are seeking a retinal specialist to treat and help your child regain their site, or prevent further progression of this disease, we invite you to call our office today. Retinopathy of prematurity is a serious eye condition that can be safely maintained and treated, and our skilled and trained retinal doctors have the background, tools, and skill to assist you for an optimal outcome.