Friday, November 16, 2012

World Prematurity Day: Premature Babies & Vision Loss

World Prematurity Day - November 17 | Photo Credit: World Prematurity Day Facebook Page

November 17th is World Prematurity Day. This day is to bring awareness to the global problem of premature births. A premature birth occurs when a baby is born 37 weeks or earlier. Babies born this early are underweight and most of their body systems are underdeveloped. These factors make pre-terrn birth one of the leading causes of infant death worldwide. 

The issue is important to me because I was a "preemie" baby born at 32 weeks. I had underdeveloped lungs, my mother described me as being "translucent" (meaning you could see my veins), I needed a blood transfusion and I spent the first month of life in the hospital. Each day my parents were told I wasn't going to survive... but I DID. Unfortunately many babies don't survive. Many of the babies who do live struggle with short and long term health issues. One of these health issues is vision loss.

Since I was a preemie one of the first questions I asked my doctor when I was diagnosed with Stargardt's was there any correlation. There doesn't seem to be any since Stargardt's is a genetic disease. The eye disease that is most associated with preemies is Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). Retinopathy of prematurity defined by the U.S. National Library of Medicine 
is abnormal blood vessel development in the retina of the eye in a premature infant.
There are five stages of ROP from mild symptoms where vision is moderately affected to the severe where there is complete detachment of the retina. The only way to prevent ROP is to prevent premature birth. If you would like to learn more about ROP you can visit ROPARD  which is The Association for Retinopathy of  Prematurity and Related Diseases. 

If you would like more info about  World Prematurity Day check out the Facebook page. The page includes information on research, all the organizations a part of the campaign and ways that you can help.

Another way you can show your support is to sign the March of Dimes petition to turn the White House purple on January 3, 2013. The March of Dimes was founded by the 32nd president Franklin D Roosevelt to find a cure from Polio. When Polio was cured the organization turned its focused to premature birth. The last day to sign the petition is November 18, 2012.

Have you or a loved one been affected by prematurity I would love to hear your story in the comments.

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