A recent study has sought to establish the risk factors for a damaging eye condition which manifests itself at an early age and can lead to severe visual impairment.
The Danish study focused on retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), an eye disease in very premature infants, which is considered the main cause of visual impairment in extremely preterm children.
It was led by Dr Carina Slidsborg, from Copenhagen University Hospital, Glostrup Hospital and Rigshospitalet, Denmark, who, along with colleagues, examined the importance of cerebral damage and ROP for visual impairment in preschool children who were born extremely premature, by conducting a clinical follow-up study of a Danish national cohort of children.
The experts studied 178 extremely premature children with a gestational age of less than 28 weeks born between February 13, 2004 and March 23, 2006, and a matched control group of 56 term-born children with a gestational age of 37 to 42 weeks in the analysis.
Analysis found that global developmental deficits (an indicator for cerebral damage) and foveal sequelae (abnormalities involving the fovea, a small area of the retina responsible for sharp vision) occurred more often in extremely preterm children than in term-born children, and increased with ROP severity.
They also found that global developmental deficits, moderate to severe foveal abnormality, and ROP treatment were independently associated with visual impairment.
They noted: "In conclusion, we herein demonstrate that, in Denmark, cerebral damage and ROP sequelae are independent risk factors for VA loss among preschool children born extremely premature and that the presence of cerebral damage is the primary risk factor of the two."
According to the specialists, further studies now need to be carried out in other countries to establish whether there are similarities in the results, with additional research carried out on the back of these findings, if required.