Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a rare eye condition. It occurs in infants who are premature or have low birthweight. ROP causes a problem in the retina, the tissue that lines the back of the eye. The blood vessels in the retina grow abnormally.
The abnormal blood vessels can lead to bleeding and scarring in the retina. In the most serious cases, ROP can lead to a separation of the retina from the back of the eye. In a small number of cases, ROP may cause vision loss or blindness.
Factors that increase the chance of an infant developing ROP include:
There are usually no signs of ROP until it reaches a severe stage. Severe ROP may cause:
- White pupils
- Abnormal eye movements
- Crossed eyes (turning toward each other)
- Amblyopia (lazy eye)
A specialist will screen for ROP if your infant has risk factors such as prematurity and low birth weight. The doctor will use a special eye exam to view the blood vessels in the retina.
The doctor will examine your infant’s eyes every 1-2 weeks until the blood vessels in the retina are fully developed.
ROP will usually heal on its own. Your baby's eye will be examined regularly until the blood vessels heal.
More severe ROP may require treatment to reduce the risk of the retina detaching from the back of the eye. Treatment options include:
- Cryosurgery—freezing tissue in the eye to prevent the spread of abnormal blood vessels
- Laser ablation/photocoagulation—a laser stops abnormal blood vessels from growing
The best way to prevent ROP is to prevent premature birth. Good prenatal care will help decrease the risk of premature birth.
- Reviewer: Kari Kassir, MD
- Review Date: 01/2015 -
- Update Date: 05/05/2014 -