It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Dr. Rahul Reddy. Click here to read more
It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Dr. Rahul Reddy. Click here to read more Patient Portal Career Center (602) 242-4928

Spotlight on Retinopathy of Prematurity: Causes, Risks and Treatments

Learning that your baby has Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) can be a daunting and emotional experience for parents. The diagnosis may come as a surprise and raise concerns about your baby’s ability to see and overall well-being. It’s essential to seek support from healthcare professionals, including neonatologists and ophthalmologists, who can provide guidance, explain the condition and discuss treatment options to help ensure the best possible outcome for your baby’s vision. At Associated Retina Consultants, we have a compassionate and devoted team to walk alongside you on this journey where indispensable intervention strategies are key in managing and preserving your little one’s eyesight. 

Retinopathy of Prematurity is a condition that occurs in a small percentage of premature infants, particularly those born before 31 weeks of gestation or weighing less than 3.3 pounds at birth. It is characterized by abnormal blood vessel growth in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye. ROP typically develops in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) due to the immature development of the retinal blood vessels in premature babies.

The exact cause of Retinopathy of Prematurity is not fully understood, but it is believed to be primarily related to the premature infant’s exposure to high levels of oxygen during critical stages of retinal development. Other risk factors for ROP include low birth weight, premature birth, respiratory distress syndrome, prolonged use of supplemental oxygen and fluctuations in oxygen levels in the NICU. Premature infants are also more likely to develop ROP if they have other health problems including anemia, vitamin E deficiency or breathing issues. 

Retinopathy of Prematurity advances through various stages, spanning from mild (Stage 1) to severe (Stage 5), with each stage reflecting the degree of abnormal blood vessel growth and the potential for vision loss. The stages of ROP are as follows:

Stage 1: Mild ROP is denoted by the presence of demarcation lines between the normal and abnormal retinal vessels. 

Stage 2: Moderate ROP is where abnormal blood vessel growth extends into the retina, forming a ridge but without retinal detachment.

Stage 3: Severe ROP is marked by the presence of abnormal blood vessel growth that extends into the vitreous, gel-like fluid in the eye, increasing the risk of retinal detachment.

Stage 4: Partial retinal detachment where the abnormal blood vessels cause a portion of the retina to detach from the back of the eye.

Stage 5: Total retinal detachment, the most severe stage of ROP, is where the entire retina becomes detached from the back of the eye, leading to significant vision loss or blindness if not treated promptly.

Treatment for Retinopathy of Prematurity depends on the stage and severity of the condition. In mild cases (Stages 1 and 2), close monitoring may be sufficient, with no intervention required. However, in more advanced stages (Stages 3-5), treatment may be necessary to prevent retinal detachment and preserve vision. Common treatment modalities include laser therapy and intraocular injections of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) medications which help reduce abnormal blood vessel growth and stabilize the retina.
Nearly half of the estimated 28,000 premature babies born each year in the United States are diagnosed within the fourth to the tenth week of life with some degree of Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). Although it is possible for ROP to resolve on its own since most cases are mild, ROP has no signs or symptoms and is only detected through an eye examination. If your child has any of the risk factors listed, Associated Retina Consultants recommends scheduling a screening for your ophthalmologist to dilate the eyes to look for signs of ROP. To book your appointment, call 602-242-4928 or visit WEBSITE.