Retinopathy of prematurity is a retinal disorder confined to premature infants. Usually it is seen in infants who weigh less than around three and a half pounds.
The blood vessels in the retina do not grow completely until the end of a full term pregnancy. In premature infants, the blood vessels may stop growing when they are born, and when they resume growing it can be abnormally and cause damage to the retina.
A screening examination is available in hospital nurseries to assist in diagnosing retinopathy of prematurity and halt its progress. If ROP is detected, follow-up monitoring will be recommended over a number of weeks by a pediatric ophthalmologist to ascertain the stage of the disease.
In most cases, ROP will disappear as the blood vessels grow to completion, but it sometimes reaches an advanced stage when treatment becomes necessary. Laser therapy usually is prescribed and it has been shown that this form of treatment can decrease the condition, if not always eliminate the chances of retinal damage and subsequent poor vision.