Pediatric Ophthalmology

Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP)



Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a disease that affects premature infants shortly after birth. This is a vision-threatening problem and needs to be diagnosed and treated early. Blindness can result from ROP that is not treated effectively.

Symptoms

Children born significantly premature will receive screening exams for ROP at pre-determined intervals. Children born at earlier gestational age and lower birth weight usually start at 4–6 weeks after birth and then continue at regular intervals until the retinal blood vessels have fully matured. If ROP develops to a “threshold” level, then treatment is warranted to reverse the ROP and prevent retinal detachment.

Causes

When a baby is born too early, the blood vessels growing into the retina are not yet fully formed. As the baby is then exposed to supplemental oxygen outside the womb, abnormal blood vessels can grow into the retina and cause retinal detachment.

Treatment Options

Treatment of ROP involves laser surgery to the retina. This is usually done at the bedside in the NICU or occasionally in the OR. Treatment is painless and takes about an hour. Careful and long-term follow-up of infants with ROP is critical, as other eye problems can develop such as high myopia (near-sightedness), strabismus (misaligned eyes), amblyopia (lazy eye), glaucoma, cataract or retinal detachment.

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