Researching preemie eye problems

isolette2Premature babies can struggle with many different health problems that come as a result of their early birth. Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) is one of them. ROP is an abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eye. It occurs in babies born before 32 weeks of pregnancy. ROP can lead to bleeding and scarring that can damage the eye’s retina (the lining at the rear of the eye that relays messages to the brain). This can result in vision loss.

It is very important that every baby with ROP have frequent follow-up exams, even if this extends beyond hospital discharge, until the ROP disappears.

Terrifying as a diagnosis of ROP may be, the good news is that most mild cases heal without treatment, with little or no vision loss. The abnormal blood vessels shrink and disappear. In more severe cases, the ophthalmologist may perform laser therapy or do a procedure called cryotherapy (freezing) to eliminate abnormal blood vessels and scars. Both treatments help protect the retina.

The March of Dimes is funding research into possible ways of preventing ROP.  Kip Connor, PhD, Children’s Hospital, Boston, is studying the role of omega-3 fatty acids (nutrients found in certain fatty fish) in preventing abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eye that can lead to retinopathy of prematurity. This study could possibly lead to nutritional treatments that could help prevent ROP.  We’ll keep you posted on Dr. Connor’s progress.

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