Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is when blood vessels develop abnormally in the retina of premature infants. The blood vessels of the retina begin to develop 3 months after conception and complete their development at the time of normal birth. If an infant is born very prematurely, eye development can be disrupted. The vessels may stop growing or grow abnormally from the retina into the normally clear gel that fills the back of the eye. The vessels are fragile and can leak, causing bleeding in the eye. Scar tissue can develop and pull the retina away from the eye and cause blindness. High amount of oxygen can increase the abnormal growth of the blood vessels.
There are 5 stages of ROP.
- Stage I: There is mildly abnormal blood vessel growth.
- Stage II: Blood vessel growth is moderately abnormal.
- Stage III: Blood vessel growth is severely abnormal.
- Stage IV: Blood vessel growth is severely abnormal and there is a partially detached retina.
- Stage V: There is a total retinal detachment.
ROP can not be seen by looking a a infants eye. It can only be diagnosed by a eye exam.
Treatment may include cryotherapy (freezing) to prevent the spread of abnormal blood vessels.
Laser therapy (photocoagulation) may be used to prevent complications of advanced ROP. The laser therapy stops the abnormal blood vessels from growing. It can be performed in the nursery using portable equipment. To be effective, it must be done before scarring and detachment occurs
Surgery is needed if the retina detaches.
Contributed by MOM Jodi