Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a disease that occurs in preterm babies (mostly born before 32 weeks gestation). It makes normal blood vessels grow slower, and additional blood vessels grow abnormally and randomly in the eye, causing vision impairment, sometimes leading to blindness.
When preterm infants are born the vessels are not fully developed in the periphery of the eye. Together with lung and cardiac complications while in the NICU, the blood vessels in the eye are in huge compromise, leading to sight deterioration.
ROP (mild to severe) leads to increased rates of visual impairments such as retinal detachment – blindness, myopia, strabismus, low vision acuity and impaired cognitive development. Current therapies include the off-label use of anti-VEGF injections and laser coagulation, both have been demonstrated to cause long term damage to the infants’ outcome.