Ophthalmological problems associated with preterm birth

Eye (Lond). 2007 Oct;21(10):1254-60. doi: 10.1038/sj.eye.6702838.


As survival of preterm infants improves, the long-term care of consequent ophthalmic problems is an expanding field. Preterm birth can inflict a host of challenges on the developing ocular system, resulting in the visual manifestations of varied significance and pathological scope. The ophthalmic condition most commonly associated with preterm birth is retinopathy of prematurity, which has the potential to result in devastating vision loss. However, the visual compromise from increased incidence of refractive errors, strabismus, and cerebral vision impairment has significant impact on visual function, which also has influence on other developmental aspects including psychological and educational. In this review, the normal ocular development is discussed, aiming to exemplify the impact of early exteriorisation on one of the more naive organs of prematurity. This is then related to the incidence and visual consequences of many types of deficit, including refractive error, strabismus, and loss of visual function in preterm populations, with comparisons to term infant studies. Often these conditions are linked with causal and resultant factors being impossible to segregate, but the common factor of increased rates of all types of ophthalmic deficits demonstrates that children born prematurely are indeed premature for life.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Eye / embryology
  • Fetal Development
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / etiology*
  • Refractive Errors / etiology
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity / etiology
  • Strabismus / etiology
  • Vision Disorders / etiology*