ROP: Retinopathy of Prematurity Diagnosis and Treatment
Shortly after birth, all premature babies should be checked for retinopathy of prematurity (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.
It is important to take your baby to all follow-up appointments with your ophthalmologist. Timely detection and treatment can help prevent permanent vision loss.
How is ROP Treated?
At first, an ophthalmologist may monitor ROP to see if it goes away on its own. If abnormal blood vessels continue to grow, the infant’s eyes must be treated.
The ophthalmologist may treat ROP in one or more of the following ways:
With laser treatment, the ophthalmologist uses a laser to burn away the edge of the retina. With freezing treatment (cryotherapy), the surgeon uses a freezing cold instrument to destroy part of the retina. Both of these treatments target very specific parts of the retina to try to stop abnormal blood vessel growth.
Also anti-VEGF medications are now used to treat ROP. These drugs are injected (given as shots) into the eye to stop unwanted blood vessel growth.
Research is also underway on medications for ROP. These drugs are injected (given as shots) into the eye to stop unwanted blood vessel growth.
As babies with ROP grow, they need to be checked regularly by an ophthalmologist for vision problems. Having ROP can lead to being nearsighted, or having a detached retina, lazy eye or misaligned eyes. It also increases the risk of having glaucoma. These problems may be treated by:
- Wearing eyeglasses
- Taking eye drops
- Putting a patch on one eye
- Having eye surgery