What is Retinopathy of Prematurity

Retinopathy of Prematurity is a condition that may be seen in the eyes of infants who are born premature. It is a potentially blinding disease that is why prompt diagnosis and treatment is necessary.

ROP is an eye disease exclusively found in the premature eye. The disease starts from the retina, a light-sensitive tissue found at the back part of the eye. It is one of the leading causes of childhood blindness in the developed world and is seen to be increasing in incidence in developing countries like the Philippines.

Theoretically, all infants born prematurely are at risk of developing ROP. But as required by law, only infants born with a birthweight of 1.5 kilos (or less) and an age of gestation (AOG) of 32 weeks or less must be screened by an ophthalmologist within the first month of life, health permitting. ROP Screening, which should be initiated by your pediatrician, can be done at the nursery or at the eye clinic on an out patient basis.

Once “Threshold ROP” (meaning significant disease requiring treatment) is diagnosed, Laser treatment is advised. This is usually done in the Operating Room under pediatric monitoring with or without general anesthesia. cryotherapy, scleral buckling, vitrectomy or intravitreal anti-VEGF injections can also be done if required.

The only way to prevent ROP is to prevent premature birth. But early diagnosis and prompt treatment can help prevent total blindness from ROP.