Blind World

Retinopathy of Prematurity.
Doctors Treat Preemie Eye Disorder Early To Prevent Blindness.

July 21, 2004.
The Bakersfield Channel.

Aleeza Albinana was born at 24 weeks and weighed just 21 ounces. Like most extremely premature babies, she faced many complications, including retinopathy of prematurely.

"ROP is a disorder of incorrect blood vessel development in the back of the eye. It only happens in premature babies," Dr. David Wheeler said.

The blood vessels in Albinana's retinas had not finished developing. She was just 9 weeks old when she had the first of three eye surgeries.

In a study of 400 premature infants, Wheeler found that treating them just one week earlier made an enormous difference.

"If you look at it in terms of the structural outcome -- the unfavorable outcome was decreased by 40 percent in the treated group. So, seven days made a big difference in these eyes," Wheeler said.

It appears to have worked for Albinana. Doctors were able to save some of her vision and she's already making the most of it.

"She will move things where she needs to have them to see or she'll get right up on them. If she's on the floor, she sees something on the floor she will get right down next to it," said Albinana's mother, Dawn.

With her central vision partially intact, Albinana can enjoy the sights of the world.

Wheeler said while it was best to treat Albinana at 9 weeks old, each case is unique. They follow the disease progression in each preemie to decide the "right" time to begin the sight-saving treatment.

Copyright 2004 by MedStar contributed to this report.

End of article.

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