Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP)
A condition associated with premature infants
Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) damages premature babies' retinas. Usually both eyes are affected, though the degree of harm to each eye may vary. In extreme cases, the retina may be scarred and detached.
The last 12 weeks of a full-term pregnancy are a particularly fundamental time for eye development. If a baby is born prematurely, blood vessels may not be able to supply blood to the retina. In this case, abnormal blood vessels form at birth and cause scarring or detachment of the retina. Supplemental oxygen given to premature babies may be a contributing factor to babies developing ROP.
Children with ROP are more likely to have nearsightedness and amblyopia (lazy eye). Glasses, patching, and eye muscle surgery can help the eye problems associated with ROP.
Premature infants do not have symptoms. External signs develop only after disease has become severe or progressed to retinal detachments. Timely detection of ROP depends upon examination by an ophthalmologist experienced in the examination of premature infants.
The condition often heals without treatment, yet there are a small number of children who go blind from it.
Normal retinal blood-vessel development (at left) and the pathological vessel growth (at right) in the eye of a child with ROP. Red blobs represent abnormal vessel development in the diseased eye.