Retinopathy of prematurity
Premature infants can have various health problems that are more serious and frequent the shorter the pregnancy. One of the problems is the so-called retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), which represents the premature cessation of blood vessel development followed by abnormal growth of new blood vessels of the retina, visual membrane (the part of the eye that absorbs light and without which there is no development of vision).
Retinopathy of prematurity occurs solely in premature infants. This is a severe complication that most often occurs in premature infants with low birth weight and decreased gestational ageand it can lead to more serious damage of the retinaand in some cases to vision loss/blindness. The disease is time-limited – it will occur or not in the first 8-10 weeks after birth, which is why is of paramount importance to detect and treat it on time.
Babies born before the 37th week of pregnancy are considered premature. Depending on the week in which they are born, some babies will recover faster and some will need intensive hospital care. As a rule, with smaller and premature infants, the risk of complications is higher, but the more mature the baby is, the greater the chances of growing normally without major complications in growth.
The retinal blood vessels in premature infants did not grow completely. In some premature infants, the growth of retinal blood vessels can continue unhindered, even after the premature birth. On the other hand, in some premature infants, the growth and development of retinal blood vessels can be slowed down to different extent, which can lead to the development of retinopathy.
Retinopathy of prematurity is a disease of blood vessel development (angiogenesis) and includes two phases. The first phase of ROP is the closure (obliteration) of the advancing end of blood vessels and occurs after birth (postnatally) due to a sharp increase in oxygen pressure in the tissue. Increased oxygen pressure interrupts the normal development of retinal vessels and in some cases, the already formed blood vessels disappear. In the second, proliferative ROP phase, new retinal vessels develop, which, due to their uncontrolled growth, lead to retinal diseases, which, if not detected and treated on time, can lead to fatal consequences for the baby, as blindness.