The retina is a light-sensitive layer of tissue. This tissue lines the back of the eye. The retina converts visual images into nerve impulses in the brain that allow sight. Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a rare condition that occurs in the eyes of infants who:
- Are born prematurely
- Are born with a low birth weight
With this condition, the blood vessels of the retina grow abnormally. This can lead to bleeding and scarring in the retina. In the most serious cases, this can lead to the retina separating from the back of the eye. ROP usually heals by itself. Most infants do not require treatment. In a small number of cases, ROP may cause vision loss or blindness.
Normal Anatomy of the Eye
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Guidelines vary, but a pediatric ophthalmologist (doctor who specializes in eye conditions and treatment in children) will screen for ROP if your infant:
- Is born prematurely
- Has a low birth weight
The doctor may examine your infant’s eyes every 1-2 weeks until the blood vessels in the retina are fully developed. Eye drops are used to dilate the pupils. The doctor uses a special lens to examine the eye.
The best way to prevent ROP is to prevent premature birth. Screening is very important for:
- Premature infants
- Low birth weight infants
If your infant needs oxygen therapy, the doctor will monitor the oxygen levels to make sure she is getting the right amount.