Information about Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP)

As a condition that affects premature babies, retinopathy of prematurity occurs when blood vessels in the eyes grow in a disorganized manner and cause scarring of the eye tissue.

In milder cases of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), ocular blood vessels may correct their own abnormal growth, causing the condition to clear up spontaneously. However, in the most serious cases, retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) can cause blindness.

Retinopathy of prematurity was previously referred to as retrolental fibroplasia (RLF) and was first described in medical literature during the early 1940s.

Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) Causes

A baby's primary ocular blood vessels, particularly the ones that connect the optic nerve to the retina, grow during the last three months of pregnancy.

Consequently, when infants are born prematurely, growth of these blood vessels stops, and scar tissue may develop. If this scar tissue contracts, it will pull on the retina, causing it to detach from the inner layers of the eye.

Additional causes of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) may include:

  • exposure to pure oxygen or toxins following birth
  • inadequate levels of oxygen during pregnancy
  • slow or delayed fetal development in the uterus

Risk Factors for Retinopathy of Prematurity

Infants born less than 32 weeks into pregnancy, as well as those born under 3.3 pounds, have the highest risk of developing retinopathy of prematurity.

Additional risk factors for Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) include:

  • anemia
  • bleeding in the brain ailments
  • high carbon dioxide levels in the body
  • irregular breathing when sleeping
  • mechanical ventilation treatment
  • seizures
  • slow heart rate
  • undergoing blood transfusions

Similarly, mothers' conditions and/or behaviors during pregnancy may increase infants' risk of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). Maternal factors may include:

  • gestational diabetes
  • heavy smoking during pregnancy
  • high blood pressure during pregnancy

The best way to reduce an infant's risk of ROP is to follow through with quality prenatal care.

Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) Diagnosis and Treatment

Babies identified with a high risk of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) (i.e. those with a number of risk factors present) will be closely monitored following birth. Ophthalmologists will first examine an infant within the first 5 weeks of birth—precisely when this exam occurs will depend on how prematurely the infant is born.

Subsequently, eye exams will occur every six months to monitor a baby's condition.

As with most conditions, the earlier a retinopathy of prematurity diagnosis is made and treated, the less severe the condition is likely to be.

Depending on the severity of an infant's retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), treatment options may include:

  • cyrotherapy, freezing retinal tissues
  • laser therapy
  • scleral buckling, a surgery in which ophthalmologists place a band around the eye to hold the retina to the eye's inner layers
  • prescription eyewear, including glasses or contact lenses, for life
  • assistive technologies, such as special computer programs or voice-activated equipment, for those with severe loss of vision or total blindness

Has your baby been diagnosed with retinopathy of prematurity (ROP)? If so, we understand the pain and trauma you are going through. We can help you investigate the cause of injury and determine if you are eligible to receive compensation for emotional and financial damages. Our retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) attorneys have extensive experience in fighting hard to protect the rights of the injured and will help you recover the money necessary for the life-long struggle ahead. Contact a retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) lawyer today for a Free Consultation.