What is retinopathy of prematurity?
The back part of the eye is called the retina. It receives
light and sends visual signals to the brain. The blood
vessels in the retina help feed the eye with oxygen.
The eyes develop rapidly during the last 12 weeks
of pregnancy. As a result, premature babies have
eyes that are not fully developed. This may
cause retinopathy of prematurity, or ROP.
Retinopathy is abnormal growth of blood
vessels in the back of the eye (retina).
About half of all premature babies who weigh
2 pounds, 12 oz or less at birth may have ROP.
Does ROP cause permanent
damage to the eye?
Most cases of mild ROP do not cause vision loss. In
some cases, abnormal tissue develops. This can lead
to scarring. Scarring can pull the retina out of place
(detached retina). This may cause vision loss.
How is ROP diagnosed?
Premature and low-birth-weight babies are
routinely screened for ROP. The first exam is
usually 4 to 6 weeks after birth.
– Premature babies should have the ROP exam
before they leave the hospital.
– Some premature babies go home before the
retina is fully developed. These babies will continue to need exams
for ROP until their eyes are fully developed.
Follow-up exams are critical.
What happens during an eye exam?
Before the exam, a nurse will use eye drops to dilate the baby’s eyes. Then the eye doctor
(ophthalmologist) will use a special head lamp to look at the baby’s eyes. Although the exam may
be uncomfortable, it is necessary.
It is very important to keep your baby’s appointments with the eye doctor. This may prevent blindness.

Treating Retinopathy of Prematurity

How serious is my baby’s ROP?
Doctors divide ROP into five stages. ROP ranges from mild (stage 1)
to severe (stage 5). Most babies with ROP have stage 1 or stage 2.
STAGE 1 – mildly abnormal blood vessel growth
STAGE 2 – moderately abnormal blood vessel growth
STAGE 3 – severely abnormal blood vessel growth
STAGE 4 – severely abnormal blood vessel growth that has
caused part of the retina to pull out of place (detached retina)
STAGE 5 – severely abnormal blood vessel growth that has
caused the entire retina to pull out of place (detached retina)

What treatment will my baby receive?
Stage 1, stage 2, and some cases of stage 3 ROP usually
resolve on their own. This means the blood vessels in the
retina go back to normal and no vision loss occurs.
With stage 4, stage 5, and some cases of stage 3 ROP,
treatment may include:
• Laser therapy – treating the outer retina to stop the
growth of abnormal blood vessels. Laser therapy helps
prevent the retina from becoming detached. It also helps
preserve as much vision as possible.
With Stage 4 or 5 ROP, surgery is needed to repair the
detached retina.
What will happen next?
Mild cases of ROP often go away on their own. When treatment
is needed, most babies respond well. All premature babies are
at higher risk for other visual problems. They need regular eye
exams in infancy and as they get older.

How serious is my baby’s ROP?
Doctors divide ROP into five stages. ROP ranges from mild (stage 1)
to severe (stage 5). Most babies with ROP have stage 1 or stage 2.
STAGE 1 – mildly abnormal blood vessel growth
STAGE 2 – moderately abnormal blood vessel growth
STAGE 3 – severely abnormal blood vessel growth
STAGE 4 – severely abnormal blood vessel growth that has
caused part of the retina to pull out of place (detached retina)
STAGE 5 – severely abnormal blood vessel growth that has
caused the entire retina to pull out of place (detached retina)
What treatment will my baby receive?
Stage 1, stage 2, and some cases of stage 3 ROP usually
resolve on their own. This means the blood vessels in the
retina go back to normal and no vision loss occurs.
With stage 4, stage 5, and some cases of stage 3 ROP,
treatment may include:
• Laser therapy – treating the outer retina to stop the
growth of abnormal blood vessels. Laser therapy helps
prevent the retina from becoming detached. It also helps
preserve as much vision as possible.
With Stage 4 or 5 ROP, surgery is needed to repair the
detached retina.
What will happen next?
Mild cases of ROP often go away on their own. When treatment
is needed, most babies respond well. All premature babies are
at higher risk for other visual problems. They need regular eye
exams in infancy and as they get older.

Glossary
Detached retina – when the
retina pulls away from the back
of the eye
Laser therapy – treating the
outer retina to stop the growth
of abnormal blood vessels
Ophthalmologist – a doctor who
specializes in the medical and
surgical care of eyes
Optic nerve – sends visual
information from the retina to
the brain
Retina – back part of the eye
that receives light and sends
visual signals to the brain
Retinopathy – abnormal growth
of blood vessels in the back of
the eye (retina

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