Retinopathy of Prematurity

Clinical Services

Retinopathy of Prematurity

What is Retinopathy of Prematurity?

The blood vessels that take oxygen and nutrients to the retina can take 40 weeks of gestation to develop properly. When babies are born prematurely, before 31 weeks or weighing less than 3 pounds, the immature blood vessels might start growing again a month or two after birth.

In some cases, they then develop rapidly and abnormally. This can lead to fragile blood vessels that leak, scarring the retina, causing retinal detachment, and even, in worst-case scenarios, leading to vision loss. Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) affects about half of all premature babies, and it typically resolves on its own at the baby grows.

What are the Symptoms of Retinopathy of Prematurity?

Most babies with mild to moderate forms of ROP can see normally, and normal blood vessels develop with no permanent scarring or vision loss. In more severe cases, you might detect abnormal eye movements or white pupils, called leukocoria. The baby’s eyes may be crossed, called strabismus, and they may have severe nearsightedness, called myopia. Severe ROP cases may result in a detached retina and blindness.

How is Retinopathy of Prematurity Diagnosed?

An ophthalmologist can use ROP screening guidelines to examine at-risk newborns. It may not always be apparent after birth so pre-term babies should be checked again when they are four to six weeks old and for follow-up visits after that.

How is Retinopathy of Prematurity Treated?

Most cases don’t need treatment at all. An ophthalmologist will monitor the development of the baby’s blood vessels. If treatment is needed, options may include laser therapy, cryotherapy, medication, or surgery. Treatment may burn or freeze away the edges of the retina to stop abnormal blood vessel growth. Injections might also help stop abnormal growth. ROP usually goes away on its own as the baby grows, but in a small percentage of cases, urgent surgery may be needed to prevent blindness.

In one type of surgery, called scleral buckling, a band is placed around the eye to hold the detaching retina in place. In another procedure, called a vitrectomy, the surgeon replaces the gel-like substance inside the eye with a substance that holds the retina in place. Your doctor will discuss the best option for your baby’s case.

What you can expect at the Cizik Eye Clinic

The Cizik Eye Clinic opened in 2007 and is housed in Memorial Hermann Plaza at 6400 Fannin Street. It includes dozens of exam areas, multiple operating rooms, and laser suites equipped with the most sophisticated equipment available for patient care.

People travel from across the country and the world for treatment at the Cizik Eye Clinic, in part because our affiliation with the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth provides unmatched resources and expertise. Our friendly staff works diligently to make your visit pleasant and efficient, as we maximize patient flow through everything from routine eye exams to the most advanced eye surgeries.

Our physicians are faculty members at McGovern Medical School and are board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology or are board eligible. At the Cizik Eye Clinic, we understand that the eye is a small part of a whole patient who deserves top-notch, comprehensive care in a cutting-edge facility.

Contact Us

At Robert Cizik Eye Clinic, we offer patients access to highly specialized eye and vision care. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-9400, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.