Retinopathy of Prematurity

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a disease of the eye affecting prematurely born babies generally having received intensive neonatal care, in which oxygen therapy is used on them due to the premature development of their lungs. It is thought to be caused by disorganized growth of retinal blood vessels which may result in scarring and retinal detachment. ROP can be mild and may resolve spontaneously, but it may lead to visual impairment and occasionally blindness in serious cases. As such, all preterm babies are at risk for ROP, and very low birth-weight is an additional risk factor. Both oxygen toxicity and relative hypoxia can contribute to the development of ROP.

During development, blood vessels grow from the central part of the retina outwards. This process is completed a few weeks before the normal time of delivery. However, in premature babies it is incomplete. If blood vessels grow normally, ROP does not occur. If the vessels grow and branch abnormally the baby develops ROP. These abnormal blood vessels may grow up from the plane of the retina and may bleed inside the eye. When the blood and abnormal vessels are reabsorbed, it may give rise to multiple band like membranes which can pull up the retina, causing detachment of the retina and eventually blindness before 6 months.

How does ROP happen?


During development, blood vessels grow from the central part of the retina outwards. This process is completed a few weeks before the normal time of delivery. However, in premature babies it is incomplete. If blood vessels grow normally, ROP does not occur. If the vessels grow and branch abnormally the baby develops ROP. These abnormal blood vessels may grow up from the plane of the retina and may bleed inside the eye. When the blood and abnormal vessels are reabsorbed, it may give rise to multiple band like membranes which can pull up the retina, causing detachment of the retina and eventually blindness before 6 months.

Low Vision care can make a big difference

Low vision care can be very effective to help individuals with ROP to lead very normal lives. Vision loss from ROP responds very well to magnification which can make reading, seeing signs, faces, the computer, TV and sometimes even driving a possibility.

There is a wide range of optical, electronic and software magnification options to address virtually every need. Every individual with ROP should have a low vision examination by a doctor skilled in low vision rehabilitation to help identify the most appropriate options to enhance their visual functioning, academic and vocational potential and their personal quality of life.