What is Retinopathy of Prematurity?

Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) is a disorder of the blood vessels of the retina (the light sensitive part of the eye). ROP is most common in premature babies. Generally, the more premature the baby and the lower the birth weight, the greater the risk for developing ROP.

What Causes ROP?

During the last 12 weeks of a full term pregnancy, the eye experiences active

growth. When a baby is born prematurely, blood vessels may not be ready to supply blood to the retina. Over 50 conditions have been proposed as causing ROP and thus far, have not been ruled out. The most frequently mentioned conditions are prematurity, excessive oxygen, infection, and/or excessive exposure to light.

What are The Stages of ROP?

Normal retinal development consists of gradual, uninterrupted growth

of blood vessels supplying the retina. For babies who suffer from Retinopathy of Prematurity, this retinal development is hindered. There are five stages of ROP, from a mild Stage 1 to severe Stage 5 when the retina detaches in the eye.

What Types of Treatment are Available?

Early diagnosis of damage is important in the treatment of ROP. Babies diagnosed with Stage 1 or Stage 2 ROP usually require nothing more than observation and get better on their own. Babies diagnosed with Stage 3 ROP often are treated by a procedures that hope to reduce the chance of the ROP progressing to the potentially blinding Stage 4 and Stage 5. For babies diagnosed with Stage 4 or Stage 5 ROP, surgical treatment may be used if the retina detaches.

Educational Implications

The effects of ROP range from normal vision to blindness. Symptoms of ROP can disappear or increase. In many cases, (approximately 90%) the child’s vision gets better without any treatment. In other cases, ROP can be progressive and can lead to total blindness.

Children with ROP are considered to be at a higher risk for developing certain eye problems (some occurring in later life), such as retinal detachment, myopia (nearsightedness), strabismus (crossed eyes), amblyopia (lazy eye), and glaucoma. In many cases, less serious problems can be treated or controlled.

Works Cited

Moss, K. Retinopathy of Prematurity (2003). Retrieved July 12, 2011 from TSBVI.


Parents’ guide to their premature babies eyes (n.d.) Retrieved July 12. 2011

from Cyber-Sight ORBIS/Telemedicine.

Pediatric diagnosis visual fact sheet: Retinopathy of prematurity (n.d.)

Retrieved July 12, 2011 from

Retinopathy of prematurity – fact sheet (n.d.) Retrieved July 12, 2011 from

Idaho Project For Children and Youth with Deafblindess.

Retinopathy of prematurity (n.d.) Retrieved July 12, 2011 from Lucile Packard

Children’s Hospital at Stanford.

Retinopathy of prematurity (n.d.) Retrolental fibroplasia; ROPRetrieved July 12, 2011 from Pub Med Health

Windsor, R., Windsor, L. (n.d.) Understanding retinopathy of prematurity.

Retrieved July 15, 2011 from Low Vision.Org.

Submitted by

Stephen Atwood, Amy Hitchcock, Nicole Hunter, and Elizabeth Watt

SPE 516

Summer, 2011