Keep an Eye out for 30 Days (Retinopathy of Prematurity)
Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is an ophthalmological disease occurring in premature babies weighing about 1750 Gms or less and/or with a gestational age of 34 weeks or less. ROP is also called retrolental fibroplasia (RLF) and Terry syndrome.
ROP usually develops in both the eyes and is one of the most common causes of vision loss in childhood and can also lead to lifelong visual impairment and blindness. There is a growth of abnormal blood vessels in the retina which can lead to blindness.
During full-term pregnancy (i.e. gestation period of 38-42 weeks), the retinal blood vessels grow and reach the edges of the retina between 8 months into pregnancy.
In premature babies, normal blood vessel growth stops before reaching the edges of the retina due to which the edges may not get enough oxygen and nutrients. The normal vessel growth is disrupted and abnormal blood vessels are formed which are fragile and tend to leak or bleed into the eye leading to scarring of the retina.
These scars when shrink, pull the retina out of position detaching it from the back of the eye. It is called retinal detachment which is the main cause of blindness in retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).
Ophthalmologists skilled in the evaluation of an infant’s eyes make the diagnosis of retinopathy of prematurity. They put drops in the infant’s eyes to dilate the pupils. It will help the doctor to examine all the parts of the eye better. The drops do not harm the eyes.
They will describe retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) by its location in the eye, i.e. the zone; the severity of the disease, i.e. the stage, and the appearance of the retinal vessels, i.e. plus disease.
Treatment for retinopathy of prematurity includes methods like laser therapy (photocoagulation), cryotherapy, injections, and in cases of retinal detachment it may include scleral buckling and vitrectomy.
Around 10 per cent of infants with retinopathy of prematurity will need medical treatment. Not all infants respond to treatment, though, and if the ROP condition continues to worsen it can lead to complications such as:
- Bleeding inside the eye (vitreous haemorrhage)
Premature babies are at a high risk of turning blind. ROP has no signs or symptoms when it first develops in a newborn baby. Effective screening and timely treatment are the most important in preventing ROP-associated blindness.
Therefore they must be screened for ROP within 30 days from birth.
An excellent team of specialists can be found at ‘Kingsway Hospitals, Nagpur’.