What Is Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP)?
Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is an eye disease in some premature babies born before 31 weeks. (A full-term pregnancy is about 38–42 weeks.) It is a problem that affects the tissue at the back of the eye called the retina. The retina senses light and sends signals to the brain so you can see. With ROP, unwanted blood vessels grow on the baby’s retina. These blood vessels can cause serious eye and vision problems later.
ROP: Retinopathy of Prematurity Causes
- Blood vessels in the eyes normally finish developing a few weeks before birth. An infant who is born early is exposed to many different things. Medicine, oxygen, bright lights, or temperature changes might affect how an eye’s blood vessels develop.
- Low birth weight – under 1500 grams.
- How early a baby is born – A premature baby born at 28 weeks has a greater risk of having ROP than a premature baby born at 32 weeks.
- Giving the infant extra oxygen after birth.
- Premature infants are also more likely to get ROP if they have other health problems. These problems include anemia (low levels of iron in the blood), not enough vitamin E, or breathing problems.
- ROP can go away on its own as an infant grows. If it does not go away, however, it needs to be treated. Otherwise, the child can have severe vision loss, or even go blind.
- Shortly after birth, all premature babies should be checked for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). An ophthalmologist can examine the infant’s eyes while they are in the hospital. However, ROP might not be visible until several weeks after birth. So, premature babies at risk for ROP are usually checked by an ophthalmologist at four to six weeks after birth.
How is ROP Treated?
At first, an ophthalmologist may monitor ROP to see if it goes away on its own. If abnormal blood vessels continue to grow, the infant’s eyes must be treated.
The ophthalmologist may treat ROP in one or more of the following ways:
Laser Treatment: With laser treatment, the ophthalmologist uses a laser to burn away the edge of the retina.
Freezing Treatment (cryotherapy): With freezing treatment (cryotherapy), the surgeon uses a freezing cold instrument to destroy part of the retina. Both of these treatments target very specific parts of the retina to try to stop abnormal blood vessel growth.
Medication Eye Injections: Anti-Vegfinjections are injected into the eye to stop unwanted blood vessel growth. These can be used alone or alongwith laser treatment for a favourable outcome.
As babies with ROP grow, they nearsighted, or having a detached retina, lazy eye or misaligned eyes. It also increases the risk of having glaucoma.