Retinopathy of prematurity, also known as ROP, is an eye condition that occurs in some premature infants. At Retina Associates of Middle Georgia, you can ensure that your child is in good hands with our trained and experienced ophthalmologists once referred from Atrium Navicent Health.

What is Retinopathy of Prematurity?

Retinopathy of prematurity is an eye condition caused by the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the retina of premature babies. The retina is a thin layer of tissue at the back of the eye, composed of photoreceptor cells that help you see.

This tissue layer must be properly functioning for you to see a crisp and clear image. Retinopathy of prematurity, or ROP, mainly affects infants born before the thirty-one-week mark of pregnancy or weigh less than 2.75 pounds.

When these abnormal blood vessels develop, they can become fragile and leak. This can eventually cause retinal detachments where the retina becomes detached from the back wall of the eye.

This condition is one of the most common causes of childhood vision loss and is usually present in both eyes. In some cases, ROP may resolve on its own without treatment.

However, more advanced cases of the condition can cause permanent vision loss. There are five different stages of retinopathy of prematurity.

Stage 1

Stage one is characterized by mild abnormal blood vessel growth. Infants with this stage of the condition often do not need treatment, and the condition usually resolves naturally.

Stage 2

Stage two of ROP is characterized by moderate abnormal blood vessel growth. Although there is moderate growth, those with stage 2 of this condition recover similarly to stage one, with no treatment needed.

Stage 3

Stage three is often when the condition worsens and warrants possible treatment. In this stage, the abnormal blood vessels grow towards the center of the eye.

In some cases of stage 3, the condition will resolve without treatment. However, if the blood vessels become twisted and enlarged, it is more likely to lead to a retinal detachment.

Treatment at this stage can often prevent a detached retina.

Stage 4

In stage four of ROP, the abnormal blood vessels have caused the retina to pull apart from the back wall of the eye, creating a partially detached retina. At this stage, infants will need treatment to resolve vision loss or preserve vision.

Stage 5

Stage five is the most severe stage and can cause permanent vision loss if left untreated. In this stage, a complete retinal detachment has occurred.

How Do Eye Doctors Treat Retinopathy of Prematurity?

At Retina Associates of Middle Georgia, our eye doctors treat infants referred from Atrium Navicent Health. If your child has been diagnosed with ROP, our retinal specialists will examine your child’s eyes to determine the best treatment method.

Many babies with ROP do not require treatment, and the majority will likely recover on their own. Treatment for the advanced stage of retinopathy of prematurity often correlates with procedures eye doctors use to treat retinal detachment caused by other factors.

Depending on the stage and advancement of the condition, our retinal specialists will proceed with surgical treatment like laser therapy or cryotherapy. Both of these laser therapy treatments burn away the edge part of the retina, where there are no longer any normal blood vessels.

Although this process sacrifices some peripheral vision, it will stop the progression of abnormal blood vessels from affecting the central vision. Central vision is considered much more important for everyday activities, such as driving, reading, and cooking, than peripheral vision.

In some cases, your child’s eye doctor may recommend specific retinal detachment repair surgeries such as vitrectomy or scleral buckle.

Do you want to learn more about retinopathy of prematurity and the various treatment methods used to preserve vision for those with it? Schedule an appointment at Retina Associates of Middle Georgia, today!

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