NURTURE INFORMATION HUB
Ophthalmological problems associated with preterm birth
A R O'Connor, C M Wilson & A R Fielder
“As survival of preterm infants improves, the long-term care of consequent ophthalmic problems is an expanding field. Preterm birth can inflict a host of challenges on the developing ocular system, resulting in the visual manifestations of varied significance and pathological scope….”
“There is no disputing the increased prevalence of strabismus in the low birth weight population compared to children born at term…”
Normal vision means that there are no problems focusing, tracking or visualization with depth perception. The visual system reaches full development in the first 7 years of life including stereopsis or 3D vision, this is where both eyes are working together. Vision needs to be checked and maintained from birth to help maintain it is present throughout life.
When a baby is born with a very low birth weight <1000 grams or born very early this can affect long term eye health. Being born premature leaves baby’s at risk for Strabismus, also known as Eye Turn, Squint Eye or Crossed Eyes, this is a condition in which both eyes do not look at the same target at the same time.
By now you would be aware that your son or daughter has a lazy eye (Amblyopia) which can be caused by a squint. Lazy eye is treated by either patching or eye drops. Strabismus may have been treated with patching or possibly surgery before 7 years of age.
Your child’s treatment for Strabismus could be glasses, eye patch or surgery.
Questions you can ask your child’s Health Care Professionals:
An optometrist is a primary health care provider, often being the first point of professional contact for people experiencing problems with their eyes or who have difficulty seeing.
An ophthalmologist is a medical specialist who has undertaken postgraduate medical training to specialise in eye health and vision. They “provide diagnostic, treatment and preventative medical services related to diseases, injuries and deficiencies of the human eye and associated structures” Ophthalmologists practice both medicine and surgery, providing both primary care as well as highly specialised treatment. They are the only providers of laser and surgical correction of eye disorders.
The ages of 6 – 12 years is a great time to get your child’s eyes tested and this is not an uncomfortable test to do. This will also show your child how to take care of their eye health by having them checked. Most states and territories run free eye screening. So check with your local Child and Family Community Health Centre for help with eye screening.
World Sight Day:
World Sight Day (WSD) is an annual day of awareness held on the second Thursday of October, to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment.
Good eye health is important to everyone. Sometimes when we have a traumatic start to life with our children that are born early or sick finding out that there might be a related issue to their prematurity can bring back emotions of anxiety and guilt. Be sure to talk to someone and process through these emotions, self-talk is important and self- reassurance that this is something that is treatable. This can be an opportunity to show your child eye exams are not painful and interesting too. There are video’s on eye exams to watch prior to the visit.