Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a disease that occurs in premature babies. It causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in the retina, the layer of nerve tissue in the eye that enables us to see. This growth can cause the retina to detach from the back of the eye, leading to blindness.
Causes of ROP
Retinopathy of prematurity causes blood vessels to grow abnormally and randomly in the eye. These abnormal vessels tend to leak or bleed, which leads to scarring of the retina. When the scars shrink, they pull on the retina, causing it to detach from the back of the eye. Since the retina is a vital part of vision, its detachment will cause blindness. Blood vessels grow from the center of a developing baby's retina from 16 weeks into the mother's pregnancy, and then branch outward and reach the edges of the retina 8 months into the pregnancy. In babies born prematurely, normal retinal vessel growth may be disrupted and abnormal vessels can develop, which can cause leaking and bleeding in the eye.
ROP can stop or reverse itself at any point, so it often resolves as the baby grows. Sometimes, the disease may progress to cause scarring, which pulls the retina away from the rest of the eye.
ROP has no signs or symptoms. The only way to detect it is through an eye examination by an ophthalmologist.
Some cases of ROP are mild and correct themselves, but others require surgery to prevent vision loss or blindness. Surgery involves using a laser or other means to stop the growth of the abnormal blood vessels, making sure they don't pull on the retina.
Because there are varying degrees of ROP, the surgical approach used can differ for each case. The more you know about retinopathy of prematurity and your baby's surgery, the easier the experience is likely to be for you.
ROP surgery is used to stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels by focusing treatment on the peripheral retina (the sides of the retina) to preserve the central retina (the most important part of the retina). ROP surgery involves scarring areas on the peripheral retina to stop the abnormal growth and eliminate pulling on the retina.
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