Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a problem affecting the eyes of premature babies, especially those born at or before 31 weeks whose birth weight was 1250 g (2.8 lb) or less, or who are at high risk for vision problems. As the immature retina continues to develop after premature birth, abnormal blood vessels can grow around its edges; in severe cases, the retina detaches from the eye.
The cause of ROP is poorly understood. Because too much or too little oxygen intake can make ROP worse, oxygen therapy for premature babies is carefully administered.
Retinopathy of prematurity can be mild and may heal on its own. Mild ROP may cause strabismus (misaligned eyes), nearsightedness, or both. In more severe cases, the doctor may do surgery or may inject medicine into the eye to try to save all or part of the baby's vision.
Babies who have ROP or who are at risk for ROP need to be checked frequently by an eye specialist (ophthalmologist). Many babies with ROP become nearsighted by age 2.
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Kimberly Dow MD, FRCPC - Neonatology & William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine