Understanding Retinopathy Of Prematurity: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
Retinal blood vessel development typically begins in the fourth month of pregnancy and ends approximately near the due date.
Treatment options for ROP majorly tend towards stopping abnormal blood vessel growth
One of the major concerns regarding premature infants is retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). This condition is a blinding disease of premature babies where the blood vessels grow abnormally in the retina. ROP can lead to vision impairment or blindness if left untreated.
Causes of ROP
Retinal blood vessel development typically begins in the fourth month of pregnancy and ends approximately near the due date. However, if the baby is premature these blood vessels may cease to develop normally in a newborn. Leading to the development of abnormal new blood vessels in the retina. Since the blood vessels are linked to the retina, and abnormal blood vessels can grow in the wrong direction they run the risk of pulling the retina away from the normal position.
Symptoms of ROP
It is important to note that ROP does not show warning signs and it is asymptomatic, hence making it tough to detect early. Parents may not be able to identify any problem with their premature babies until 6-8 months later. That is why there is a need for regular screening of preterm newborns.
There are other signs, that parents can notice later in order to recognise the damage by ROP, such as abnormal eye movements, abnormal object following/tracking, white pupils, and problem-recognising faces.
Treatment options for ROP
Treatment options for ROP majorly tend towards stopping abnormal blood vessel growth as well as addressing complications:
• Laser Therapy: This treatment involves creating small burns on the retina's outer edge towards stopping the growth of abnormal blood vessels.
• Anti-VEGF Therapy: This method includes intravitreal injection of medication that prevents abnormal vascular growth.
• Eye Surgery: The need for surgical procedures in cases that involve partial or full retinal is inevitable.
Early detection and effective treatment strategies are important for preventing long-term vision impairment. Understanding the causes, recognizing the symptoms, and seeking early treatment can help in effective management. Regular eye examinations and close monitoring by a pediatric ophthalmologist are essential for the management of myopia, squint and other complications of ROP.
(Dr. Shalini Singh, Consultant Vitreoretina, Lead Clinician - Retinopathy of Prematurity, Dr. Shroff's Charity Eye Hospital)
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