Why to Treat Retinopathy of Prematurity?


Medically speaking, any baby born before 36 weeks of gestation is considered premature. The causes of sudden labor or other related problems are not yet fully understood. In most cases, these babies are born either because they or their carriers were under stress, or because the mother went to premature labor.

While science has helped premature babies born even as early as 25 weeks, there are another host of problems that the baby could have as he progresses in his life. Common issues like cerebral palsy and other alignments are often faced by babies born between 25-31weeks of gestation. One other eye related problem you might have heard of is retinopathy of prematurity.

In layman terms, ROP or retinopathy of prematurity is an ocular disorder that causes abnormal blood vessel growth in the eyes of premature babies. ROP usually effects infants that are born before 31 weeks of gestation and that weigh under 3 pounds at birth. However, factors others than the gestation period and weight matter as well.

ROP Explained Further

An infant with ROP will develop abnormal blood vessels that are swollen and centered towards the retina, at the back of the eye. While there are several stages of the disease (we’ll discuss these later), advanced stages lead to the abnormal vessels being extended into a jellylike substance. If left unchecked, bleeding of these vessels may cause the retina to be partially detached, and this, in turn, will lead to partial or full blindness.

ROP can be classified into five different stages, depending on its severity.

Stage 1: At this stage, there are a very few numbers of vessel growth. Most infants who develop this stage don’t need treatment and will improve with time and have normal vision. However, the baby still needs to be observed routinely to rule out the chance of progression.

Stage 2: Much like stage 1, the abnormal blood vessel growth of this stage is negligible. Many babies who develop this stage don’t require treatment and will improve over time.

Stage 3: This is a stage where most parents get worried about their child. This stage is where there is severely abnormal blood vessel growth, and the progression looks like it is centered at the surface of the retina. Though some infants with this stage develop normal vision later in life because the disease goes away on its own, some might end up losing vision. This depends on the fact that whether or not the infant has a ‘plus disease.’ In a nutshell, ‘plus disease’ is that where the abnormal blood vessels become twisted and enlarged which indicates worsening of the disease.

Stage 4: This is when the retina becomes partially detached. Friction caused by the scar that was produced by the bleeding of abnormal vessel leads to the retina pulling away from the wall of the eye.

Stage 5: The final stage of retinopathy of prematurity is level 5. If no treatment is given at this point, the baby can be victim to serious visual impairment or even complete blindness.

This is why treatment of stage 3, 4 and 5 is essential and not an option you should consider