The long-term effects of retinopathy of prematurity include significant vision loss and even blindness. This injury can also lead to strabismus or “crossed eyes,” amblyopia or “lazy eyes,” and retinal detachment. These vision impairments or eye abnormalities can have a deep impact on a person’s life.
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Long-Term Medical Problems that Retinopathy of Prematurity May Cause
Some infants with retinopathy of prematurity do not suffer any serious long-term consequences. However, other infants develop serious medical issues that affect their vision or the alignment of their eyes.
Nearsightedness or myopia is a common symptom of retinopathy of prematurity. When a person is nearsighted, they can see close objects clearly, but objects that are farther away appear blurry. Nearsightedness may be corrected by using eyeglasses or contact lenses or through surgery.
Another potential consequence of retinopathy of prematurity is retinal detachment. The retina is a thin piece of light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that plays a crucial role in our ability to see. When the retina detaches from the eye, the tissue is prevented from receiving oxygenated blood. Detached retinas may require considerable medical intervention, including multiple surgeries to remedy.
Amblyopia or “Lazy Eye”
When an infant’s vision does not properly develop in one or both eyes, amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” may occur. Strabismus is the term used to describe eyes that are pointing in different directions. For example, one eye may face straight ahead while another eye turns into the corner of the eyeball.
The child’s brain may adapt to this misalignment by ignoring the eye that is not pointed in the correct direction. However, this adaptation may prevent the problem from being fixed. To correct amblyopia, the child may need to wear an eye patch on the stronger eye. Doing so forces the weaker eye to become stronger.
Although it is rare, retinopathy of prematurity can lead to total or near-total loss of vision. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), approximately 400 to 600 infants develop blindness due to retinopathy of prematurity each year in the United States.
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Proper Medical Treatment May Prevent Vision Loss and Other Complications
If a baby is born prematurely, doctors should check the infant for signs of retinopathy of prematurity. Typically, a premature infant is evaluated by an ophthalmologist four to six weeks after being born.
Sometimes, retinopathy of prematurity goes away on its own. However, some babies require medical intervention. Ophthalmologists may use a variety of treatments to prevent or mitigate the effects of retinopathy of prematurity, including:
- Laser treatment of the retina
- Cryotherapy (freezing) of the retina
Contact the Birth Injury Lawyers Group for Help After a Birth Injury
If your child’s birth injury was caused by medical negligence, you could have a valid legal claim. You may be entitled to compensation for your child’s past and future medical bills as well as your other losses. The Birth Injury Lawyers Group can investigate your child’s birth injury and help you pursue compensation for your damages. Call (800) 222-9529 for a free consultation.