The latest data from the WHO in 2017 says Indonesia ranks 5th as the country with the highest number of premature babies in the world. This is certainly worrying because premature babies have not developed enough to be more susceptible to complications from diseases and other health problems. Premature babies are even more at risk of having vision problems since birth than babies born full-term or on time. One of the most common vision problems in the eyes of premature babies is retinopathy prematurity, or commonly abbreviated as ROP.
What is retinopathy prematurity (ROP)?
Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is an abnormality in the eyes of a premature baby that results from a newly formed blood vessel in the retinal layer that stops developing. As a result, the retina will form new abnormal blood vessels. These abnormal blood vessels are very vulnerable to swell until they break or leak. When this happens, the retina can be released from the eyeball and cause serious vision problems.
ROP mainly occurs in premature babies born before the 31st week of pregnancy weighing around 1,250 grams or even less. The smaller the baby at birth, the more likely it is to get ROP.
What are the causes of retinopathy of prematurity?
The exact cause of retinopathy for prematurity is still unclear and continues to be debated. However, most experts agree that some of the following are triggers for ROP.
- Baby's weight is less than 1,500 grams at birth.
- Born at a gestational age of less than 34-36 weeks. Babies born at 28 weeks 'gestation will be more susceptible to ROP than babies born at 32 weeks' gestation, although both are categorized as premature babies.
- Babies who get oxygen to breathe.
- Premature babies who have other health problems, such as infection or anemia (lack of red blood cells).
What are the possible problems in the eyes of premature babies with ROP in the future?
When the baby is growing up, the following complications of ROP disease that might occur:
- Eyes lazy.
- Cross eyes.
- Refractive eye problems (farsightedness or nearsightedness).
In severe cases, retinopathy of prematurity has the potential to permanently blind the baby's eyes if not treated quickly.
Therefore, if you have a premature baby or sibling or relative who has a premature baby, don't forget to check them with the nearest ophthalmologist.
What checks should be done?
Examination of the retina needs to be done on the eyes of a premature baby as soon as possible to detect ROP risk before it's too late. Examination is done by first giving eye drops that are useful for dilating the pupils (the black part of the eye) and also to reduce pain.
Eye examination is usually done when the baby enters the age of 4-6 weeks, because at this age the new ROP can be detected properly. Further examination will be carried out every 1-3 weeks depending on the condition of the retina and also the severity of ROP experienced by the baby.
Is there any treatment that can be done?
There are several types of treatment that can be done for retinopathy prematurity, including:
- Laser therapy at the edges of the retina to stop abnormal blood vessel growth.
- Inject a special drug into the eyeball to reduce the growth of blood vessels.
These actions need to be carried out if there has been a pull on the retina.
- Guide to Caring for Premature Babies at Home
- Kangaroo Method for Premature Babies or Low Birth Weight
- Be Alert, Conditions of Unhealthy Lazy Eyes Can Cause Blindness