Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a disease that primarily occurs in premature babies.
When blood vessels grow abnormally into the retina the retina can be caused to detach from the back of the eye causing the patient blindness.
Some cases of the disease are very mild and will correct themselves, but to prevent loss of vision and blindness surgery will be needed. Lasers can be used to reduce the pull on the retina by halting the growth of the abnormal blood vessels. The surgery can be different for each case of ROP as there a varying degrees of the disease for each patient.
Although the exact cause is not known it is reported that it it happens most frequently in the smallest babies and premature babies.
A baby's retina develops 16 weeks into the mother's pregnancy, the blood vessels branch outward and reach the edges of the retina much later (8 months) into the pregnancy. In premature babies there is disruption in the normal retinal vessel growth this is when the abnormal vessels can develop that cause bleeding and leakage into the eye.
ROP can reverse or stop itself at any point, or it can progress to cause scarring. The only way to detect it is through an eye examination by an ophthalmologist.