Retinopathy of Prematurity



ROP happens when blood vessels in the retina do not develop as they should. It is not known why this happens in some infants.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of ROP are:

  • Premature birth, especially babies born before 28 weeks of pregnancy
  • Low birth weight, especially babies weighing less than three pounds
  • The use of supplemental oxygen, too much oxygen, or changing oxygen levels in the body
  • Low levels of insulin like growth factor (IGF-1) in the blood
  • High blood glucose
  • Poor nutritional status



There are usually no signs of ROP until it reaches a severe stage. Problems may be:

  • White pupils
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Eyes that cross and turn toward each other


An eye exam will be given to infants born prematurely or those with low birth weight. The retinas will be viewed. This is enough to make the diagnosis.



Mild ROP will usually heal on its own. An eye doctor will watch for any changes during this time.

The goal of treating severe ROP is to lower the risk of the retina detaching and causing vision loss. Treatment options are:

  • Cryosurgery—freezing tissue in the eye to prevent the spread of abnormal blood vessels
  • Laser ablation/photocoagulation—using a laser to stop abnormal blood vessels from growing


The best way to prevent ROP is to lower the risk of premature birth with good prenatal care.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.