What is Retinopathy of Prematurity?
Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) is an eye disease seen in premature babies in which there is growth of abnormal blood vessels on their retina (the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye).
What causes ROP?
When a baby is in its mother’s womb, the blood vessels in its eyes finish development in the last few weeks before birth. However, when a baby is born premature, these blood vessels do not get a chance to develop fully. Elements of the outside world like light and temperature changes. High levels of oxygen and medications interfere with the normal development of blood vessels of cause ROP.
The following factors also affect the progress of ROP:
• Low birth weight (below 1500 grams)
• Low gestational age (born before 32 weeks)
• Use of supplemental oxygen or blood transfusion after birth.
• Deficiency of hemoglobin or Vitamin E
• Respiratory or Heart troubles.
What are the signs of ROP?
- White-locking pupils.
- Severe nearsightedness.
- Abnormal movements of the eye.
- Crossed eyes.
What is the treatment for ROP?
- • No treatment in early stages.
- Laser treatment (photocoagulation) to eliminate the abnormal blood vessels.
- Cryotherapy (freezing to prevent the abnormal blood vessels from spreading)
- Eye drops
- Patching one eye (if amblyopia has to be treated)
- Scleral Buckling (placing a band around the eyeball) Or Vitrectomy (removal of the gel inside the eye) surgery may be needed if the condition has reached stage 4 or 5 and retinal detachment has occurred.
Do all premature babies get ROP?
No. In 85% of the infants who are born premature. the blood vessels finish growing over the retina as they were supposed to, although a week later than the original date.
Is my baby safe from ROP once he has been discharged?
Not entirely. Premature babies at risk for ROP need to be followed up for 52 weeks until after conception. Since your baby would most likely have been discharged regularly for a few weeks following discharge to be completely sure that your child’s eyes are safe.
Once my child’s ROP has regressed, she is out of danger right?
Unfortunately, ROP is a disease that needs lifelong checks. Children and adults who were prematurely born need ongoing eye care for glaucoma (damage to your optic nerve due to ti high pressure in your eyes), amblyopia (lazy eye), nearsightedness, early cataract or retinal detachment.
I have heard that the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Light worsen ROP. Is it true?
Studies have shown that there is no correlation between the development of ROP and exposure to light. Currently, There does not seem to be a connection between the two.
Will Laser therapy have any effect on my child’s field of vision?
Laser therapy does reduce the peripheral (side) Vision. A little side vision has to be sacrificed if the central vision needs to be preserved. Central vision is the one that helps us read. Drive, do fine work etc. The danger of not undergoing a laser treatment is far worse with the risk of progression, a detachment of retina, and blindness.