How is retinopathy of prematurity treated?

If your baby's birth in Ohio occurred before the 31-week mark, there is a chance that he or she could develop retinopathy of prematurity. According to WebMD, ROP is a condition of the eye affecting premature infants that can lead to vision loss.

In addition to prematurity, your baby's birthweight is another indication of whether he or she may develop the condition. ROP can affect babies weighing less than 2.75 pounds at birth, and smaller babies are at greater risk. 

ROP affects the tissue at the back of the eye, known as the retina, that allows your baby to see. The condition causes the formation of abnormal blood vessels on each retina because a premature birth interrupts the normal process by which the baby's eyes develop. Sometimes ROP improves on its own, but if it does not, it can lead to a number of eye problems that may affect your child's vision:

  • Nearsightedness
  • Glaucoma
  • Lazy eye
  • Retinal detachment
  • Crossed eyes

If ROP is too severe to improve on its own, your baby's doctor may recommend one of several forms of treatment. Cryotherapy is an older treatment method that involves preventing the spread of abnormal blood vessels using freezing cold temperatures. Injection with a drug called Avastin that blocks the growth of new blood vessels is a more recent treatment that requires further study, although it shows some promise. The most common form of treatment is laser surgery, which is safe and effective, although laser surgery and cryotherapy each carry a risk of peripheral vision loss.

In cases where the retina has detached because of ROP, more complex surgery may be necessary. Vitrectomy involves removing the scar tissue associated with abnormal blood vessel formation and replacing the clear gel inside the eye with saline solution. Scleral buckling allows the retina to move back into place by compressing the sclera, or white part of the eye, with a small, stretchy band. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only. 

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