Blindness risk for premature babies
Tuesday 18 August 1992
Those affected are either completely blind or suffer serious vision defects because the blood vessels in their eyes are not fully developed at birth and rupture, damaging the retinas. The numbers are increasing.
Strong lighting in special baby-care units may be a contributory cause, according to Alistair Fielder, Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Birmingham, who wants to set up a collaborative study with US specialists.
The condition is known as retinopathy of prematurity, or ROP, and affects babies born at 31 weeks of gestation or earlier, but is not detectable until three to six weeks after birth.
It afflicts 6.4 per cent of all visually impaired children under 16. This means there are at least 1,200 affected children in Britain and the number is probably increasing by about 30 a year.
The earlier a baby is born the more likely a risk of ROP; some babies born at 24 weeks are now surviving. About half of all premature babies are known to show symptoms. The majority cure themselves, but 1 per cent will suffer visual handicap.
Professor Fielder said: 'The amount of illumination that babies receive while in intensive care can be more than 10 times that of office illumination. In addition, this is 24 hours a day and it occurs when the baby would normally still be in the darkness of his mother's womb.
'If this is a cause we need to know because one of the easiest things to do will be to turn lights down in neo-natal units,' he said. He found that the part of the retina damaged is that which is not protected by the eyelids.
A second initiative has been started by Mr Edmund Schulenburg, consultant ophthalmologist at London's Hammersmith Hospital, using cyrosurgery, which involves freezing the retina and destroying abnormal blood vessels with a special lance he has developed.
He claims a 75 per cent success rate but the operation has to be carried out during a brief stage of the eye's development which lasts for only seven to 10 days. 'The question of improved care for premature babies is now posing a serious dilemma for the medical profession,' he said.
'This is directly related to the medical profession's ability to save these very premature babies and there is a heavy price to pay for it. Yet where do you draw the line? Many . . . mature normally.'
- 1 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Mia Khalifa: Pornhub star claims Drake sent her 'cringeworthy' naked photos on Instagram
Boris Johnson claims porn-obsessed Islamic jihadists are 'literally w*****s'
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Putin opponent reveals Russian President's daughter's secret identity
Ball pool for adults opens in London
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
King Abdullah dead: We can't afford not to hold Saudi Arabia's royals to account
£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...
Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL FIRM - A...
Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - EXCELLENT FIRM - We have an outstandin...
Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: IN-HOUSE - NATIONAL CHARITY - An exciting and...