What’s the Importance of Having Your Premature Baby Screened for Retinopathy of Prematurity

Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) manifests in infants born prematurely or those weighing less than 1500 grams at birth.

What's the Importance of Having Your Premature Baby Screened for Retinopathy of Prematurity
Why Is It Necessary To Get Your Premature Infant Checked For Retinopathy Of Prematurity?

Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), also known as Retrolental Fibroplasia (RLF) and Terry’s Syndrome, is an eye condition affecting premature infants. It targets the retina, responsible for light perception and signaling to the brain. ROP predominantly occurs in babies born prematurely, typically within 30 weeks of pregnancy or weighing less than 1500 grams at birth.

According to research by the National Eye Institute in the US, ROP occurs when abnormal blood vessels develop in the retina.

To gain deeper insights into this condition in premature infants, the OnlyMyHealth team consulted Dr. Mandeep Singh Basu, Director of Dr. Basu Eye Hospital in Delhi. Dr. Basu highlighted that around 65 percent of babies weighing less than 1251 grams at birth are vulnerable to ROP. This disorder prompts the growth of unwanted blood vessels in the retina, potentially leading to severe vision impairments if left untreated for an extended period. Dr. Basu emphasized that the anomalies in blood vessel development exacerbate with time, increasing the risk of vision-threatening abnormalities if not promptly addressed.

What's the Importance of Having Your Premature Baby Screened for Retinopathy of Prematurity

Symptoms Of ROP

Dr. Basu highlighted some common symptoms observed in babies with ROP:

1. Unusual eye movements
2. Difficulty in tracking objects with their eyes
3. Presence of white pupils
4. Difficulty in recognizing faces

Discussing the seriousness of these symptoms, Dr. Basu emphasized, “As these infants grow older, they become more susceptible to other eye issues such as retinal detachment, nearsightedness, amblyopia, and strabismus (crossed eyes). Regular checkups and eye examinations are vital for the early detection and treatment of ROP. Early identification helps in preserving vision as the child matures.” He further added, “Regular eye checkups are imperative to combat this condition. Early detection and intervention for ROP play a crucial role in safeguarding vision as the child develops.”

Stages Of ROP

Stages Of ROP

There are five stages of ROP, ranging from mild to severe:

1. Stages 1 and 2: Babies in these stages often improve without any treatment, leading to healthy vision.
2. Stage 3: Damage to the retina by abnormal blood vessels may result in vision loss.
3. Stage 4: Babies in this stage have partially detached retinas, necessitating treatment.
4. Stage 5: This stage can lead to vision loss or blindness.

Dr. Basu emphasized, “Both stages 4 and 5 are severe and often require surgical intervention.” He further added, “It’s crucial to schedule follow-up examinations for babies at any stage to ensure they receive appropriate care. Early detection and treatment can significantly reduce the risk of serious complications.”

Causes Of ROP

This eye condition arises when abnormal blood vessels form in the retina during pregnancy, disrupting the normal development of retinal blood vessels. Infants weighing less than 1500 grams and those born within 31 weeks of gestation are particularly at risk. According to Dr. Basu, ROP typically presents no symptoms and can only be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination performed by an ophthalmologist.

Discussing the primary causes of Retinopathy of Prematurity, Dr. Basu stated, “Prematurity is the primary cause of ROP, with the risk increasing with earlier gestational age. Factors such as uncontrolled oxygen exposure at birth and the overall health condition of the baby can also contribute to the development of ROP.”

He further recommended that screening should be conducted for infants under 32 weeks of gestation or those weighing less than 1501 grams at birth.

Timely Detection And Way Forward

Timely Detection And Way Forward

Retinopathy screening involves a comprehensive eye examination conducted by an ophthalmologist to detect any signs of Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). Dr. Basu advised that at least one screening should be conducted if a baby is born eight weeks before the expected due date or weighs less than 1501 grams at birth.

Dr. Basu recommended, “Premature infants should undergo ROP screening within 4-6 weeks after birth and subsequently thereafter. While ophthalmologists can assess the infant’s eyes during the hospital stay, ROP may not become apparent until several weeks later. Regular follow-up appointments are essential for timely identification and treatment.”

In conclusion, Dr. Basu emphasized, “In cases of mild ROP, parents should consult with the ophthalmologist 1 to 2 months after the initial comprehensive eye examination by an expert eye care specialist. Typically, mild ROP resolves on its own if subsequent follow-up examinations show no further complications. However, if the severity progresses, weekly re-examinations are advisable.”