retinopathy of prematurity

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Retinopathy of prematurity or ROP is an eye condition which effects premature babies. When a baby is in the womb, the retina starts to develop about 16 weeks in to the pregnancy. It is completely developed by about 36 weeks. However, if this process is interupted, there will be problems.

ROP happens because parts of the retina lack oxygen. This causes chemicals to be released. These chemicals cause new blood vessels to grow. These new blood vessels usually grow in the wrong direction. Doctors don't know why this happens. Doctors think that if a baby has to be put on oxygen at birth, this is toxic to the developing blood vessels.

ROP happens in 5 stages. If arrested in stage one or two, the ROP usually goes away on it's own with no lasting effects. If it does not, it can cause scar tissue to form, which can pull the retina out of place. In stages 3 and 4, there is a partial retinal detachment. Lazor surgery or cryotheropy (freezing the dammaged parts of the retina away) is necessary. In stage 5, there is a complete retinal detachment. If the retina is not reattached, the baby may be blinded or visually impaired. surgery can not be done later in life to reattach the retina if it has been detached.

The only treatmeant for this condition is lazor surgery or cryotherapy (see above). Sometimes a surgery called "sclural buckling" is done to try and reattach the retina. This involves a rubber band being wrapped around the eye for a certain amount of time. It is only done very rarely.

some people can get cataracts or glaucoma (high eye pressure) when they get older because of the ROP.

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