What is Retionpathy of Prematurity?
Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), affects approximately 14,000 to 16,000 premature
infants in the United States annually.
ROP primarily affects
infant weighing less than two pounds twelve ounces, who are born at or
before thirty-one weeks into the pregnancy. The lower the birth weight
of the baby, the higher the chances are that he or she will suffer from
retinopathy of prematurity.
Approximately ninety percent of
infants born with ROP suffer from the milder version which improves in
time and normally requires no treatment. ROP causes about four hundred
to six hundred infants each year in the United States to become
diagnosed as legally blind.
What causes retinopathy of prematurity?
approximately sixteen weeks of pregnancy, the baby's eyes begin to
develop. Blood vessels grow from the back of the eye toward the retina,
and bring oxygen and nourishment to the eye. The process remains gradual
until approximately the last twelve weeks of pregnancy, when everything
develops more rapidly.In a full term pregnancy, development of the eye
is nearly complete. When a baby is born prematurely, however, many times
the blood vessels have not have sufficient time to reach the retina. If
this happens, and the blood vessels stop growing, the edges of the
retina do not receive adequate oxygen. New, more fragile blood vessels
often begin to grow in that area to make up for the deficiency. Since
they are more fragile, these blood vessels frequently leak, which causes
scarring in the eye. As the scars heal, they actually pull the retina,
causing it to detach, resulting in visual impairment.
How is retinopathy of prematurity treated?
are numerous treatments for ROP, but the most common treatments are
laser surgery and cryotherapy. Laser surgery is an invasive surgery that
is performed by using a special instrument that actually targets the
periphery of the eye where there are no normal blood vessels, burning it
away. With this procedure, the peripheral area is destroyed.
Cryotherapy works in much the same manner as laser therapy, except that
the tool used actually generates freezing temperatures, and freezes the
surface that overlies the peripheral area. Again, with cryotherapy, the
peripheral area of the eye is destroyed. Both of these treatments are
performed on children suffering from the more severe stages of ROP.
forms of treatment include the use of a sclera buckle, and the
performance of e vitrectomy. The sclera buckle procedure involves the
placement of a silicone band around the eye, which prevents the scar
tissue from being pulled, and allows the retina to relax.The band is
required to be removed later, as the eye continues to grow. A vitrectomy
removes the vitreous and replaces it with a saline solution which
enables the scar tissues to be removed. The procedure also enables the
retina ti relax.
While these treatments have been very successful
in preventing blindness and improving the vision of babies with
retinopathy of prematurity, not all babies respond to treatment. In some
cases, the babies will suffer from retinal detachment. A careful
evaluation performed by your child's physician can determine whether
further treatments are recommended.