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 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.
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
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Kimberly Dow, MD, FRCPC - Neonatology