This page is dedicated to informing my readers about Retinopathy of Prematurity.
Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) is an eye condition that only affects premature infants. ROP causes abnormal growth of the blood vessels of the retina due to a disruption in normal growth as a result of prematurity. This abnormal growth of blood vessels may cause bleeding and scar tissue to develop on the retina. As the scars shrink, they tug at the retina, pulling it away from the eye, causing retinal detachment, leading to blindness. In some cases, ROP may reverse itself, but in many cases, the baby must undergo laser or cryosurgery to stop the abnormal growth of the blood vessels. In extreme cases when the retina has detached from the eye, the baby must receive a scleral buckle to re-attach the retina in hopes to save some of the baby’s vision.
In my case, I developed ROP in a short period of time. I received cryosurgery in both eyes to stop the growth of the blood vessels and due to a retinal detachment in my right eye, I had a scleral buckle placed to re-attach my retina. At the time I was born, these were relatively new treatments for ROP and I was lucky to receive them and not end up completely blind. I have usable vision corrected to 20/70 in my left eye and very little, non-usable, vision in my right. In addition to decreased acuity (clarity of sight) I have decreased peripheral vision, no depth perception, nystagmus, and double vision. Nystagmus is an involuntary movement of the eyes. In some individuals, you can see it at all times even when they are resting. Mine however, is more so when I look in certain directions or when I am really tired. It makes it really difficult to focus and see things because the whole image moves back and fourth. With nystagmus, the individual typically has what is called a null point. This is a spot where I have the best focus that stops the nystagmus. For me, this causes my head tilt and awkward body position. My double vision started in the past 2 years and luckily is mostly correctable with prisms in my glasses. With these combined factors, I have difficulty seeing at a distance and reading close up. I have trouble navigating through changes in lighting, and experience night blindness. I have a hard time distinguishing changes in elevation such as stairs and curbs. Since I havn’t known any different, I have developed ways to compensate throughout my life. I use a white mobility cane for navigation.
I friend recently shared with me this article about a new experimental treatment for ROP. The information can be found by following this link. This new treatment uses Avastin, a cancer drug to stop the growth of the abnormal blood vessels.