Retinopathy of Prematurity

Retinopathy of Prematurity also in short known as ROP is an eye disease that happens in premature babies. It causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in the retina and can eventually lead to blindness. The disease causes blood vessels grow abnormally and randomly in the babies eye. These vessels have a propensity to leak or bleed, leading to scarring of the retina. when these scars shrink, they pull on the retina, detaching it from the back of the eye. Because we know that retina is an important part of the eye which leads to proper vision, its detachment will cause blindness in newborn babies.

Cause of ROP

During the period when the women are pregnant blood vessel grow from the center of the developing retina 16 weeks into the mother’s pregnancy, and then it moves outwards and reaches the edges. In babies, those who are born premature, normal retinal vessel growth is not constant and abnormal vessels can develop which actually causes seeping and bleeding into the eyes.

ROP has no such symptoms when it develops in the eye of the newborn. The only way to detect it is through a thorough eye examination by an eye specialist.

Treatment

In some cases, ROP is mild and can correct by itself but in others, the progress to scarring, pulling the retina away from the rest of the eye can cause loss of vision. So to prevent such condition surgery is the only way.

ROP surgery stops the growth of abnormal vessels. Treatment focuses on the peripheral retina to preserve the central retina. The surgery involves scarring areas on the peripheral retina to stop the abnormal growth and also it stops the pulling on the retina.

As the surgery mainly focuses on the peripheral retina, some amount of the peripheral vision may be at risk and can get the loss. But the preserving of the central retina is still there because of which the important functions like color distinguishing, reading, driving etc. can be carried out normally.

Types of ROP surgeries

  • Laser surgery: Laser beam is used to do the job of scaring the peripheral retina.
  • Cryotherapy: abnormal growth of blood vessel is done by freezing temperature to scar the peripheral retina.
  • Scleral buckling: In this process, a flexible band is placed which is made of silicon, around the circumference of the eyes. The flexible silicon goes around the sclera or white of the eye.
  • Vitrectomy: The process of the surgery involves replacing the vitreous with saline solution. This allows the removal of the scar tissue and it becomes easy to tug on the retina which stops it from pulling away.