Retinopathy of Prematurity
Retinopathy of prematuryity (ROP) is an eye disease affecting prematurely born babies and especially those receiving intensive neonatal care where oxygen therapy is used as a result of premature development of their lungs.
The blood vessels at the back of the eye start growing from the optic nerve after only 16 weeks of pregnancy, reaching to the frontal part of the eye by week 40. When a baby is born very preterm, before 32 weeks of gestation, their blood vessels are not completely developed. This causes the normal growth of the blood vessels to stop, leading to insufficient delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the developing tissue. Blood vessels may grow disorganized and may result in scarring and retinal detachment, causing ROP to develop.
ROP can differ in severity, ranging between mild cases where it resolves by itself to severe cases causing permanent blindness. In addition to preterm birth as a risk factor, birth-weight has been shown to be a strong indicator of the risk of ROP. The lower the birth-weight, the greater the risk. Research show that, by ensuring the right conditions for growth and development, it is possible to reduce the risk of ROP through neonatal nutrition.