Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is an eye disease that occurs in a small percentage of premature babies where abnormal blood vessels grow on the retina — the light-sensitive layer of cells lining the back of the eye that help us see. The image at left shows examples of normal and abnormal blood vessel growth.
ROP occurs more frequently in smaller babies with very low birth weight or of an earlier gestational age. For instance, a 28-week premature baby has a greater risk of developing ROP than a 32-week premature baby.
In some cases, the abnormal blood vessels may shrink and go away without treatment. In other cases, the vessels may continue to develop and serious eye and vision problems may occur, such as:
- Myopia (nearsightedness)
- Detachment of the retina
- Amblyopia (lazy eye)
- Strabismus (misaligned eyes)
- Glaucoma (increased eye pressure)
- Vision loss or blindness
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