Retinopathy of prematurity, or ROP, occurs when blood vessels in a baby’s eye develop abnormally. ROP only affects premature babies, and the earlier the baby is born, the greater the risk of developing the condition. ROP is most common in babies born more than 12 weeks early.
ROP affects the retina, which is the tissue that lines the back of the eye and transmits visual information to the brain. The retina requires a blood supply to function properly. Blood vessels that supply blood to the retina develop while a baby is developing inside the womb. This development is typically completed a few weeks before birth. The blood vessels of the retina haven’t fully developed when a baby is born prematurely. As a result, the vessels after birth may develop abnormally.
In severe cases, bleeding and scar tissue may occur, resulting in retinal damage. This can impair a baby’s vision and, in the worst-case scenario, cause blindness.
There is some evidence that abnormally high blood oxygen levels may contribute to ROP development. To avoid excessive levels of oxygen, your baby will be closely monitored with blood tests and a pulse oximeter, a monitor placed on the skin that continuously checks the percentage of haemoglobin oxygen saturation in the blood.
Signs & symptoms
Subtle changes in a baby’s retina are difficult to detect and cannot be seen by parents, paediatricians, or nurses. Only a paediatric ophthalmologist, a doctor who specialises in eye care, can detect signs of retinopathy of prematurity by examining the baby’s retina with special instruments.
Severe, untreated ROP can result in the following symptoms:
White pupils, also known as leukocoria
Nystagmus refers to abnormal eye movements.
Strabismus refers to crossed eyes.
Myopia (severe nearsightedness)
Before being discharged from the hospital, all premature babies who may be at risk for ROP are carefully monitored and examined for the condition. The only way to tell if a baby has ROP is to look inside their eyes for abnormalities in the retina.
Your baby’s eyes will be examined by ophthalmologists who are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of ROP. Your baby’s pupils will be dilated with eye drops during this exam so that the retina can be examined. If any signs of ROP are found, additional evaluations will be recommended in the coming weeks.
ROP is classified into stages based on the severity of the disease. In mild cases, the baby’s retinal blood vessels may continue to grow normally without treatment. In more severe cases, there are visible abnormalities in the development of the retinal blood vessels, which can lead to retinal detachment and blindness. This happens only in the most severely affected infants.
ROP treatment is determined by the stage and severity of the condition. The milder stages of the disease usually resolve on their own and do not necessitate treatment. However, if the disease has advanced to the point where your baby’s vision is jeopardised, treatment is required.
Our paediatric ophthalmologist will go over all of your child’s treatment options with you in depth. The goal of treatment is to reduce your baby’s risk of retinal detachment, which can severely impair vision.
Laser photocoagulation is the most commonly used treatment, in which a laser is directed to a specific area to destroy abnormal blood vessels and seal leaks. Postoperative pain and swelling are minimal with laser photocoagulation. According to recent research, early treatment of severe forms of ROP is effective in reducing the amount of permanent eye damage.
The doctors at Dr Kamdar Eye Hospital are LASIK, cataract, cornea, retina, and glaucoma specialists.
The hospital has cutting-edge medical facilities and the most experienced ophthalmologists. Our goal is to assist you in realising your best vision.
Please call or visit Dr. Kamdar Eye Hospital for more information or to make an appointment with a consultant.