Learning About Retinopathy of Prematurity

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What is retinopathy of prematurity?

Anatomy of the eye

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a problem with the eyes of premature babies. It is common in babies born at or before 30 weeks. And it is common in babies under 1.5 kilograms.

After premature birth, the retina keeps forming. Sometimes, abnormal blood vessels grow around the edges. In severe cases, the retina detaches from the eye.

Mild cases may cause crossed eyes and nearsightedness. In more severe cases, there is a risk of vision loss. In those cases, the doctor may do surgery or may inject medicine into the eye.

What happens when a baby has ROP?

  • Most of the time, the eye heals itself. In that case, the baby doesn't need treatment.
  • Many babies with ROP are nearsighted by age 2.
  • Sometimes treatment saves all or part of a child's vision.
  • Babies with ROP need regular checkups with an eye doctor. They are more likely to get other eye problems in the future.

What are the symptoms?

  • You won't notice anything wrong. Your baby's doctor will find the problem during an eye examination. This may be done in the hospital or a few weeks after birth.

How is ROP treated?

  • ROP is usually mild. It may not need treatment.
  • Laser therapy or cryotherapy can treat ROP. Both of these treatments destroy tissue on the sides of the retina. Laser therapy burns the tissue. Cryotherapy freezes it. Either may destroy some side vision.
  • In more serious cases, your baby may need surgery to help fix a detached retina. This surgery can prevent more serious vision problems, such as blindness.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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Current as of: July 26, 2016