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Retinopathy of Prematurity

Retinopathy of Prematurity

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a problem affecting the eyes of premature babies, especially those born at or before 30 weeks' gestation or weighing less than 1500 g (3.3 lb). As the immature retina continues to develop after premature birth, abnormal blood vessels can grow around its edges; in severe cases, the retina detaches from the eye.

The cause of ROP is poorly understood. Because too much or too little oxygen intake can make ROP worse, oxygen therapy for premature babies is carefully administered.

Retinopathy of prematurity can be mild and may heal on its own. Mild ROP may cause strabismus (misaligned eyes), nearsightedness, or both. In more severe cases, eye surgery is often necessary to prevent vision impairment or blindness.

Babies who have ROP or who are at risk for ROP need to be checked frequently by an eye specialist (ophthalmologist). Many babies with ROP become nearsighted by age 2.

Last Revised: April 14, 2011

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & John Pope, MD - Pediatrics

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