Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP)
Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a potentially blinding disease that affects thousands of premature infants in America every year. ROP can occur when a baby is born prematurely and the retina is only partially formed. Depending on how early the baby arrives will determine the severity of the ROP.

There are five stages of ROP:
  • The first stage occurs when the blood vessels cease to grow and develop a line that separates the normal part of the retina from the premature part.
  • During the second stage of ROP, the line formed in Stage 1 takes on a substance and becomes an elevated ridge of tissue.
  • As ROP progresses to Stage 3, delicate new abnormal blood vessels grow toward the center of the eye. ROP is still capable of repairing itself at this stage. It is when stage three ROP continues to advance and the normal blood vessels begin to dilate does it indicate that ROP will not go away untreated. This is called "plus disease."
  • In Stage 4, ROP continues to develop causing a partial retinal detachment.
  • Occasionally, the retina will completely detach (Stage 5) causing very poor vision
Treatment is advised if enough of the retina has "plus disease." Laser treatment and cryotherapy are often used to treat the abnormal retina in ROP. Treatment results vary for ROP.  In a number of cases, treatment helps to eliminate the abnormal vessels providing for good vision.
    With the advancements in today's technology, the devastating effects of ROP have drastically decreased. In most cases, retinopathy of prematurity can resolve without treatment.  However, a routine examination by an eye specialist is necessary to monitor the development of the retina in premature infants until he/she has stabilized.

    For more information about ROP, visit www.ropard.org.

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