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Retinopathy of Prematurity

Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) is an eye condition that affects premature infants (infants weighing less than 1250 grams or those born before 31 weeks gestation). ROP is a common cause of childhood vision loss and can have significant visual consequences including blindness. Not all premature infants develop ROP and not all infants with ROP have lasting visual consequences or require treatment.

In more severe cases, infants may require extensive treatment including laser and cryotherapy. These treatments decrease the oxygen demand in the retina in an attempt to save the vision. Vision loss from ROP is variable and patients may experience central or peripheral vision loss. In addition, ROP can lead to retinal detachments requiring more invasive surgery with more significant effects on the vision.

Vision rehabilitation for patients with ROP is specific to the type of vision loss and the age at presentation to the Vision Rehabilitation Service. Early on, we often assist with making recommendations for the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) while the patient is in school. Determining the visual potential is an important part of the rehabilitative process and it helps to make informed decisions on the best learning style.

After completion of school, we can offer assistance with vocational and independent living goals. Patients with ROP may have central visual impairment and thus would require magnification. Many patients with ROP have significant peripheral visual impairment and require mobility aids such as a white cane and we will often refer for orientation and mobility training. In more significant cases of visual impairment, patients with ROP may require Braille instruction or sensory substitution such as text to speech conversion and auditory input for extended reading even if some vision is preserved. The vision rehabilitative management of ROP is very specific to the individual patient’s type of vision loss and the specific goals.

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