What is Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP)?
Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) is a disease that occurs in premature babies. Babies with a birthweight of less than 1700 gm or those born before 35 weeks of pregnancy are at the highest risk to develop ROP.
The vision of your baby depends upon the baby’s retina. A premature retina layer is further exposed to factors which could be aiding the condition called ROP. The premature retina could develop abnormal blood vessels that could cause bleeding inside the eye and also a retinal detachment. If developed and progressed, ROP can lead to low vision and even blindness. If not detected and treated at the crucial time, it can cause irreversible low vision or even blindness.
How can you help detect ROP in your premature baby?
A retina specialist or a paediatric ophthalmologist or a trained eye surgeon can detect ROP by a detailed examination of your premature baby’s eyes. This test is done inside the neonatal unit or hospital, during a visit by the retina specialist or paediatric ophthalmologist. The pupils of the eye are dilated using drops and the retina is examined with an indirect ophthalmoscope for signs of ROP.
Should all premature babies be examined for ROP?
Yes, all premature babies should be examined at the earliest for ROP.
What is the treatment for ROP
ROP is best treated with laser rays that can be performed in your neonatal hospital with the help of your Paediatrician and his/her team. The treatment helps stop further growth of abnormal vessels, thus preventing complications.
ROP is a very fast disease and the time period between early detection and complications is just 2-3 weeks. ROP should be treated as soon as it reaches a critical stage called at Threshold ROP. There is a 50% greater risk of vision loss if left untreated after this.
The treatment is successful in majority of the cases. Only in some rare, late diagnosed or complicated cases, the retinas may go into further complications. They may then require advanced treatments like Injection Anti-VEGF or Vitrectomy.
When should the eye of my premature be examined?
Follow the “Day 30” Strategy. The eye exam should be completed before Day 30 of the life of a premature baby, at the earliest. It is a simple exam done in the hospital without causing any inconvenience to your baby. ROP can progress rapidly and seriously in just 2-3 weeks. Therefore, it may require 2-3 check-ups in that period.
What is the after-treatment or after-check-up follow-up schedule for a premature baby?
If treated on time, majority of children will not experience any complications. Yet, all premature babies require a yearly eye exam by a paediatric ophthalmologist.
All babies who have developed ROP will develop some other eye conditions. They may need treatment for glasses, Lazy Eyes, Cross-Eyes or even Cataract, Glaucoma, and Retinal Detachment. This again indicates a yearly eye exam by a Paediatric Ophthalmologist till at least 15 years of age.