Here’s Everything You Need to Know about Retinopathy of Prematurity

The joy of hearing the news of a new member joining the family can only be deeply felt by the parents. No matter how many children you have before or after this particular child, the happiness you feel cannot be compared.

Unfortunately, much like everything else in life, nothing is certain.

Because of several expected or unexpected complications, the baby you’re yearning for may come much earlier than you anticipated. While a baby that’s born between the 37 to 42 weeks is called full-term, one that’s born earlier than that is known as a premature baby.

A premature baby can be born any time from the 24th to the 36th week,and the complication rates increase the sooner the baby was born. While technology has made it possible for these babies to survive, they can go through a series of difficulties that can make life challenging. One of the most common problems experienced by babies born before 31 weeks is retinopathy of prematurityor ROP.

What is retinopathy of prematurity and what causes it

ROP is a problem which affects the retina. A baby is diagnosed with ROP when unwanted blood vessels grow on the baby’s retina. These blood vessels are responsible for sending signals to the brain and can cause serious vision problems later in life if they increase in number.

While a large number of retinopathy cases go away of their own, it needs to be treated because it can cause serious vision problems if it doesn’t go away naturally. The causes of ROP vary,and doctors are not sure about the exact factors that contribute to it. But perhaps the most logical explanation is that when babies are born before 31 weeks, their retinas are still undeveloped.

Unfortunately, when they come into the world, they are exposed to the following things, which may contribute to the disease.

  • Artificial oxygen
  • Low birth weight (under 3 pounds)
  • Medicine
  • Bright lights and temperature changes

Diagnosing retinopathy of prematurity

The International Classification of Retinopathy of Prematurity (ICROP) is what is used to describe and diagnose the disease. The classification makes use of several parameters that describe the disease. However, we aren’t going to get into the nitty gritties but are instead going to focus on the basic stages of ROP and the meaning of their severity.

The following are the stages of the retinopathy of prematurity and they define the severity of the disease as well as the treatment plan that should be taken.

Level 1 Faint Demarcation Line

Stage 2: Elevated Ridge

Level 3: Extraretinal Fibrovascular Tissue

Stage 4: Sub Total Retina Detachment

Stage 5: Total Retinal Detachment

Research has shown that the first 2-3 stages or levels can sometimes go away on their own even when they’re not treated. However, if the disease has progressed to stage 4 or 5, treatment is almost always recommended.

Treatment of ROP

If progressive retinopathy is not treated in time, it can lead to scarring or even pulling of the retina away from the rest of the eye. This can cause permanentvision loss or even blindness. To avoid any such serious implications, doctors recommend eye surgery for patients with ROP.

The following are the types of ROP surgery.

  • Laser Surgery
  • Cryotherapy
  • Eye Injections

Retinopathy of prematurityis a serious problem in premature babies that need to be addressed immediately. Remember, the earlier the stage, the better the chance of full recovery.


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