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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.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kimberly Dow, MD, FRCPC - Neonatology
Current as of March 22, 2013

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 22, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.