3 Common Eye Diseases In Children Born Prematurely

Babies born too early can be more susceptible to eye disease than normal. These babies are monitored closely while in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) but it is important to be on the lookout for these three eye diseases as they grow.

Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP)

Babies who are born less than 31 weeks gestation are most susceptible to retinopathy of prematurity, or (ROP). It is a common cause for vision loss for children born prematurely, leading to either vision impairment or blindness in one or both eyes. Babies who have the disorder are often diagnosed while in the NICU, but once they are discharged, it is important to keep up with routine eye exams. This is true even when symptoms of ROP are not present. It is also important to contact an eye doctor when a child who born early has any kind of vision problem.


Another condition is amblyopia, also known as lazy eye, and it can cause many problems with children's eyes. There are generally three types of amblyopia:

  • Strabismic - develops as a result of eyes not being straight or when one eye is turned inward or in another direction
  • Deprivation - vision deprivation as a result of cataract-like conditions in one or both eyes
  • Refractive - one eye has worse vision in one eye than the other

Depending on what type of amblyopia is present, an eye doctor might recommend a variety of treatments including wearing eye glasses, patching, eye drops, or vision therapy all at an early age.


Commonly characterized as having a drooping eyelid, ptosis can cause many complications, including vision loss. Some children are born with this condition, in which case it is called congenital ptosis. Horner's syndrome is known to cause this congenital condition. Babies born early are usually susceptible to birth injuries due to the need for emergency C-section or other trauma at birth.

Horner's syndrome causes damage to the sympathetic nervous system and is usually present on one side of a baby's face, which is why only one of the eyelids droops. In severe cases, ptosis can restrict and block vision and can cause amblyopia. Once diagnosed, it is usually treated with surgery.

If your child was born prematurely, you will want to be diligent about taking them to the eye doctor for routine eye exams. These conditions are generally easier to treat the earlier they are caught. Early detection can decrease the chances of future eye problems for your child. For more information, contact an eye doctor at Quality Eye Care.