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  • Writer's pictureDr. Sara

Why preterm babies have low vision and its treatment?

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Preterm birth is one of the main reasons of low vision within babies. Parents go through hard time when they find out about the preterm birth of their baby and start worrying about their future. With approximately 15 million babies born preterm annually, it is a commonly known reason for low vision and other problem.

So why babies born prematurely have low vision?

Studies have shown that the final stages of visual development happen during the last few months of pregnancy. When a baby is born early, the body does not get enough time to develop the blood vessels connecting to the retina and in most cases, the vessels grow quickly which results in abnormal blood vessels. Blood vessels are responsible for carrying Oxygen to the eye to help with the vision development and because of the abnormal development of vessels, the oxygen flow is altered. This causes a common eye disease known as ROP (retinopathy of prematurity). This damages the retina which causes low vision. ROP is monitored and examined by the doctor every 4 to 6 weeks to make sure it does not get worse or require treatment. In most cases, ROP is cured or stabilized.

ROP is just one cause of low vision but because of it, there are more complications that we need to worry about even after ROP being cured. The most common complications are:

1. Lazy eye (amblyopia) – It is when one of the eyes does not develop the way as it should. Common symptoms are head tilting while looking and facing issues while telling how far or near an object is.

2. Glaucoma – An eye disease which would cause damage to your optic nerve due to high pressure on eye.

3. Strabismus (crossed eye) – An eye condition which causes misalignment of one or both the eyes. This happens when there are problems with eye muscle.

These complications usually appear later in childhood and causes low vision. Although there is no cure for these conditions, there are ways to stop them from further development. By doing some activities with your baby like, playing with toys and books, this will help to grow the vision of your baby as this stimulates it. This process is known as rehabilitation. To know the proper action (rehabilitation) to take to improve the vision, visiting the doctor for vision tests will help you to get proper suggestion.

In conclusion, low vision is a common issue with babies born prematurely as the body gets less time to develop the organs. There is no proper cure for it but there are treatments like rehabilitation or visual stimulation which would help your baby’s vision to develop and stop low vision from developing further.


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