Optometrist Q: Hi Dr. Bell. My second child was recently born, seven weeks early. Should I be concerned about the development of her eyes? A: Hello and thank you for Dr. Isaac Bell your question. It is possible that your daughters’ eyes may have developed “retinopathy of prematurity (ROP),” but a dilated eye examination is needed. ROP primarily affects infants with a birthweight of about 2 ¾ pounds or less and who are born before 31 weeks of gestation, and the smaller the child, the greater the risk. The eye starts to develop at about 16 weeks of pregnancy, when the blood vessels of the retina begin to form at the optic nerve in the back of the eye. During the last 12 weeks of pregnancy, the eyes develop rapidly, with those blood vessels growing from the optic nerve insertion point, toward the periphery of the retina / eye. If a baby is born prematurely, before the blood vessels have reached the periphery of the retina, normal vessel growth often stops, causing the edges of the retina to lack oxygen and nutrients. This lack can trigger the formation of new weak and fragile blood vessels, which often break and scar. The scars tend to shrink over time, pulling on the retina, causing a retinal detachment and vision loss. Fortunately, there are very successful treatments for the above, including laser and cryotherapy, but the key is early detection. DR. ISAAC M. BELL 208.746.2644 210 Thain Road • Lewiston, Idaho 563161J Optometric Physician