Retinopathy of prematurity is a condition that can cause blindness in premature babies. It is the result of inadequate oxygen levels during neonatal care, which can cause the abnormal growth of retinal blood vessels, leading to scarring and retinal detachment. Retinopathy of prematurity can have mild effects or cause full blindness. There are five stages of ranging from mild (Stage I) to severe (Stage V).

What are the 5 stages of retinopathy of prematurity?

Stage I involves mildly abnormal blood vessel growth. Infants with Stage I often improve without any treatment and their vision eventually returns to normal. If there is moderately abnormal blood vessel development, it is classified as Stage II.

Stage II is similar to Stage I in that the condition can improve with no treatment and children will eventually develop normal vision.

Occasionally, even children with Stage III will have their vision return to normal with no treatment, but this stage involves severely abnormal blood vessel growth where the blood vessels grow towards the centre of the eye instead of along the surface of the retina. At a certain level of Stage III, the blood vessels can become enlarged and twisted. Treatment is recommended, which has a good chance of preventing retinal detachment. Retinal detachment presents itself in the following stages.

Stage IV involves a partially detached retina, where bleeding and abnormal blood vessel growth causes a scar. Traction from the scar then pulls the retina away from the wall of the eye.

In Stage V, the final stage of Retinopathy of Prematurity, the retina is completely detached. Without proper medical treatment, the baby will suffer from severe visual impairment or blindness.

Does my child have retinopathy of prematurity?

Most premature babies who develop retinopathy of prematurity only develop Stages I or II. There are a small number of cases, however, where it can very rapidly worsen, threatening to destroy the child’s vision. Leaving retinopathy of prematurity undiagnosed or untreated at any stage can have severe consequences.

If your child is diagnosed with this condition, it could be due to medical negligence after birth. For more information and legal advice about medical negligence and your options, speak to Paul du Plessis Attorneys.

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