Retinopathy of prematurity is an eye disease that may cause blindness in infants born before 31 weeks gestation. When the health care provider does not diagnose and treat this condition shortly after birth, permanent vision loss can result.

If your baby was born prematurely, learn more about the importance of screening for and treating ROP.

What is retinopathy of prematurity?

This disease causes blood vessels within the retina of the eye to grow abnormally and bleed. Over time, the scarring created by the abnormal vessels detaches the retina from the back of the eye, causing blindness. Because retina do not completely develop until near the end of pregnancy, early birth may negatively impact the normal development of these cells. The earlier a baby is born, the more likely it is that he or she will experience ROP.

What are the symptoms of ROP?

Screening is especially important because early ROP cases show few symptoms. As the disease progresses, the infant may display white pupils or unusual eye movements. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends a dilated eye exam to check for this condition in infants born prior to 31 weeks.

The earlier a doctor detects and treats, the better the potential outcomes for the patient. For this reason, parents may have a medical malpractice suit if the child’s doctor negligently fails to diagnose ROP.

How is this condition treated?

Most cases of ROP require surgery to prevent scars from forming. Your child’s doctor may recommend laser surgery to remove scars from the periphery of the retina to preserve the more important central retina. In some cases, injection of a medication into the affected area can stop the abnormal growth. Advanced cases may require more complex surgery.

If your baby was born early and you have concerns about his or her vision, determine whether your child had an ROP screening at birth. If not, you could have a medical malpractice claim if he or she suffers vision loss as a result of this disease.