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Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is an eye disease that occurs in some premature infants. It is characterized by the abnormal growth of blood vessels and other harmful retinal changes that may develop in the fetal eye. ROP is progressive, beginning with mild changes in the vessels, and possibly progressing on to more severe changes. Premature babies are at risk for developing ROP because they have been taken out of the protective environment of the uterus before the normal growth of the retinal vessels is complete, and are exposed to many factors including medications, high levels of oxygen, and variations in light and temperature.
Most infants with ROP improve spontaneously, usually developing normal central vision. However, some infants who undergo regression may have late complications of ROP, including glaucoma, cataracts, strabismus (eye misalignment) and myopia (nearsightedness). In advanced stages of ROP, the abnormal blood vessels and associated fibrotic scar tissue can lead to retinal detachment and blindness if untreated.
Signs and Symptoms
Active stage: enlarged and twisting blood vessels in the back of the eye; retinal hemorrhages; abnormal, newly formed blood vessels