Premature birth is a complex and often unexpected event that brings a myriad of potential health challenges for a newborn. One such complication that preterm infants can face is Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP)- a condition affecting the blood vessels in the retina. ROP can lead to vision impairment or even blindness if not addressed promptly. In this article, we will explore the causes of ROP, the importance of prevention, and the role of Sanjeevan for Perfect Eyesight in providing advanced treatments for this condition.

Understanding Premature Birth

Premature birth occurs when a baby is born before 37 weeks of gestation. This early arrival means that the infant’s organs, including the eyes, are not fully developed. The development of blood vessels in the eye, particularly in the retina, is a complex process that continues throughout the pregnancy. When a baby is born prematurely, this intricate development may be interrupted, leading to ROP.

Symptoms and Causes

Retinopathy of Prematurity is primarily caused by the abnormal growth of blood vessels in the retina. Several factors contribute to this condition:

  • Gestational Age: The risk of ROP is directly related to the degree of prematurity. Extremely premature infants, born before 28 weeks of gestation, are at a higher risk.
  • Low Birth Weight: Babies with a very low birth weight, typically less than 2.75 pounds (1250 grams), face an increased risk of ROP.
  • Oxygen Therapy: High levels of oxygen therapy, often necessary for premature infants, can disrupt the normal development of retinal blood vessels, triggering ROP.
  • Infection and Illness: Due to their lower immunity rate the risk of infections and other illnesses is higher. This can exacerbate the risk of ROP.

About half of approximately 28,000 premature babies born annually in the United States experience some level of Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). While the diagnosis can be challenging to hear, understanding ROP and your child’s eyes can alleviate stress for you and your family. Picture your child’s eyes as a camera, with the lens and pupil at the front controlling image focus and light entry, respectively. At the back is the retina, similar to a camera film, recording information for the brain to develop into images.

Prematurely born children often experience incomplete development of the blood vessels that nourish the retina. Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) arises when these vessels temporarily halt growth and then resume in an abnormal and erratic manner. The newly formed vessels are delicate and may leak, resulting in scarring of the retina. In severe cases, the retina can detach, posing a significant risk of blindness for the baby.

– To understand your child’s condition, knowledge of the three common ROP descriptions is essential: by zone, by stage, and by the presence of “plus disease.”
– The zone indicates the location of the disease, with Zone 1 at the central retina, Zone 2 in the middle, and Zone 3 along the outer edge; lower zone numbers imply greater severity.
– The stage describes disease progression, ranging from Stage 1 (mildly abnormal vessel growth) to Stage 5 (end stage, severe growth and scarring causing retinal detachment).
– Plus disease signifies abnormally twisted and enlarged blood vessels, and its presence, or pre-plus disease signs, is crucial for determining the need for treatment.

Preventing ROP

Prevention of ROP is crucial, and several measures can be taken to reduce the risk:

Prenatal Care: Adequate prenatal care for expectant mothers can help reduce the risk of premature birth.
Monitoring Oxygen Levels: Careful monitoring and regulation of oxygen levels during neonatal care can minimise the risk of ROP.
Early Detection: Regular eye exams for premature infants can detect ROP in its early stages, allowing for timely intervention.

Complications in Retinopathy of Prematurity

– Approximately 10 percent of infants with Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) may require medical interventions, including laser therapy (photocoagulation).
– Despite treatment, not all babies respond, and if ROP worsens, it can lead to complications such as scarring, dragging of the retina, retinal detachment, bleeding inside the eye (vitreous haemorrhage), cataracts, and blindness.
– The remaining 90 percent of infants experience a mild form of ROP that typically resolves without treatment in the first few months of life.
– However, these children may face an increased risk of developing certain eye problems later on, including myopia (nearsightedness), strabismus (crossed eyes), amblyopia (lazy eye), and glaucoma.
The Importance of Timely Intervention

ROP is a time-sensitive condition, and early detection and intervention are critical for successful treatment. Regular eye examinations for preterm infants are essential to identify and address ROP at its earliest stages. Sanjeevan’s expertise in early diagnosis and personalised treatment has made a significant impact in preserving vision for infants affected by ROP.

Premature birth and the associated risk of ROP underscore the importance of vigilant prenatal care and neonatal monitoring. Timely intervention and advanced treatments at clinics like Sanjeevan for Perfect Eyesight can significantly improve outcomes for preterm infants at risk of ROP.