Retinopathy of Prematurity

(ROP; Retrolental Fibroplasia; RLF)


Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a rare eye condition. It occurs in infants who are premature or have low birthweight. ROP causes a problem in the retina, the tissue that lines the back of the eye. The blood vessels in the retina grow abnormally.The abnormal blood vessels can lead to scarring of the retina. In the most serious cases, ROP can lead to a separation of the retina from the back of the eye. In a small number of cases, ROP may cause vision loss or blindness.
Normal Anatomy of the Eye
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


The exact cause of ROP is unknown.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase the chance of an infant developing ROP include:
  • Premature birth , especially babies born less than 30 weeks gestation
  • Low birth weight, especially babies weighing less than three pounds
  • Low or fluctuating oxygen levels
  • Respiratory distress
  • Anemia


There are usually no signs of ROP until it reaches a severe stage. Severe ROP may cause:
  • White pupils
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Crossed eyes (turning toward each other)
  • Amblyopia (lazy eye)


A specialist will screen for ROP if your infant has risk factors such as prematurity and low birth weight. The doctor will use a special eye exam to view the blood vessels in the retina.The doctor will examine your infant’s eyes every 1-2 weeks until the blood vessels in the retina are fully developed.

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