What is retinopathy of prematurity (ROP)?

Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) is when the retinal blood vessels do not develop normally in babies that are born prematurely. It can cause a serious loss of vision if it isn't diagnosed and treated early.

The reasons why babies develop ROP are complicated, but ROP is more likely to occur in babies that:

  • are born very prematurely - particularly less than 32 weeks
  • have a low birth weight (less than 1500 grams)
  • have needed oxygen treatment.

There are five stages of ROP:

  • Babies who have stage 1 and stage 2 ROP may not have any vision problems and therefore won’t usually require regular eye exams by an ophthalmologist.
  • Babies who have stage 3 ROP may be followed up in the hospital clinic according to the centre's protocol as they may be more likely to have eye problems.
  • Babies who have stages 4 and 5 ROP are likely to have significant vision loss.

Advanced ROP requiring treatment affects only around six percent of premature babies.

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