Retinopathy Of Prematurity
Retinopathy Of Prematurity (ROP)
Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a sight-threatening condition that affects the retinas of premature infants, as a result of incomplete development of the blood vessels within the eye. While retinal blood vessels usually finish developing by the time of birth, premature infants may be born before this occurs. Improperly developed blood vessels may be exposed to high levels of oxygen, which can in turn lead to abnormal blood vessel growth on the surface of the retina.
ROP is one of the most common causes of childhood visual loss, and occurs most often in infants who weigh less than three pounds or who were born before the 31st week of pregnancy. All premature infants should be screened for ROP, as the condition sometimes does not present itself until several weeks after birth. If diagnosed, frequent monitoring is required to determine if the condition will regress on its own or require treatment to reduce the risk of vision loss and other complications.
The extent of abnormal blood vessel growth can be evaluated to classify the patient’s condition into one of five stages, ranging from mild to severe. About 90 percent of infants with ROP are diagnosed with mild cases, which involve some abnormal vessel growth but do not tend to cause any permanent damage. More severe cases that involve significant growth of abnormal blood vessels may lead to retinal detachment and eventually cause vision loss or even blindness.
In its early stages, many cases of ROP do not require any treatment. As the condition advances, laser therapy and cryotherapy are often effective in destroying the peripheral areas of the retina in order to slow or reverse the growth of abnormal blood vessels. Laser treatments burn away the retinal periphery, while cryotherapy uses extremely cold temperatures to freeze it away. Addition treatment options for later-stage ROP may include scleral buckle or vitrectomy, both of which are surgical procedures that may involve long-term side effects.