ROP occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow in the retina. Retinal blood vessels in human fetus begin to develop in the fourth month of pregnancy and complete by the term of birth. If the baby is born prematurely, this development stops midway. The retina then develops abnormal new blood vessels that can grow in a wrong direction. As the blood vessels are attached to the retina, they can pull on the retina at the back of the eye while growing. Thus it can create a type of retinal detachment.
Early diagnosis is the key in treating and preventing vision problems due to ROP.
An ophthalmologist can examine the infant’s eyes while they are in the hospital. However, ROP might not be visible until several weeks after birth. So, premature babies at risk for ROP are usually checked by an ophthalmologist at four to six weeks after birth and again thereafter.
Treatment would depend on the stage of ROP. Early stages of ROP may regress on its own. However, advanced stages would need treatment, which may be in the form of laser, surgery or Anti VEGF injections into the eye.