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Retinopathy of Prematurity

What is retinopathy of prematurity?
Babies grow inside their mothers for nine months.  Then they are born.  If they are born sooner, they are premature.  When babies are born very early, they may have some problems.  One of the problems is in the eyes.  It is called retinopathy of prematurity.

Sometimes people who have retinopathy of prematurity have other eye problems.  They may have glaucoma, cataracts, strabismus and microphthalmia.   You can read about these problems on this website.  Some people who have retinopathy of prematurity also have cortical visual impairment.  You can read about cortical visual impairment on this website.

Sometimes the brains of people who are born early are hurt.  The brain may have a hard time understanding space.  It is harder to read when the brain does not understand space.

The brain may have a hard time understanding touch, hearing and movement.  The people whose brains have a hard time with touch may not want to touch new things.  Loud sounds may hurt their ears.  They may have a hard time planning how to move and do things with their hands.

What causes retinopathy of prematurity?
The eyes do not grow the same outside the mothers as they do inside the mothers. 
The blood vessels did not grow to feed the retina.  The retina is like a skin on the back of the eye.  It holds the nerves that get light through the pupil.  The nerves send visual messages to the brain.  If the retina gets no blood, it gets scars.  The scars may pull the retina away from the back of the eye.  No visual messages can get to the brain from the part that pulls away.

What kind of vision do people have who have retinopathy of prematurity?
People who have retinopathy of prematurity do not all have the same vision.  Some can see a lot.  They may see better up close.  They have myopia.  You can read about myopia on this website.

People who have retinopathy of prematurity may not see to the side or above or below.  Their eyes may have scars on the retina that make blind spots.  When no blood was in the retina, the scars were made.  The doctors also made some scars.  Those scars are from the doctor making the retina stay on the back of the eye.

Some people who have retinopathy of prematurity cannot see at all.

What will help you if you have retinopathy of prematurity?

  1. Glasses may be helpful.
  2. You may like bright light.  It may help you see.  Try to get lights that you can make dim or bright yourself.
  3. Make things look bigger.  The easy way to make things look bigger is to move them close to you or move yourself close to them.  Use a bookstand to hold your book so that you can sit up to look at it up close.  Maybe a magnifier will help you see things close to you.  You can make print and pictures bigger on the computer or with a copy machine.  A monocular telescope may help you see things that are far away.
  4. You may need to get help from an occupational therapist.  Occupational therapists can help you use your hands.  They can help your brain learn to enjoy  touching things.  They can help you hear things without getting startled.
  5. An extra teacher who helps people learn to read may help you.  In California these teachers are called resource specialists.  They teach students who have a hard time learning in a big class.
  6. If it is hard to read print, use listening and braille to learn.  You can read with braille all of your life.
  7. Learn to use a white cane.  It will help you find things.  It will keep you from tripping.
Be careful not to hit your head.  Stay away from flying balls.  Do not play games where your head may get hit.  Wear a helmet if you are riding a bike, a skate board or a scooter or if you are rollerblading, skiing or ice skating.  Any time when you might fall and hit your head, where a helmet.

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