The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eyeball. The word "-pathy" means a problem. So retinopathy is a problem with the retina.
Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is an eye problem in premature babies (babies who are born too early). It's caused by blood vessels in the back of the eye growing in an unusual way.
ROP is most common in babies born before 30 weeks of pregnancy, especially premature babies who have infections, bleeding in the brain, or lung problems
Premature babies should be checked by an eye doctor every few weeks
ROP is usually mild, but it can sometimes cause a detached retina, leading to decreased vision or blindness
Your baby may not need any treatment, or doctors may use laser treatments or surgery
Normally, blood vessels in the retina of a fetus start growing when the fetus is around 18 to 20 weeks. Those blood vessels stop growing by the time the baby is born. In premature babies, the blood vessels haven't finished growing when the baby is born. They may stop growing for a while, but then start growing again in a disorganized way. This causes ROP.
Babies with ROP don't usually have symptoms, so all premature babies should have an eye exam to look for ROP.
Babies with severe ROP may have:
Bleeding in the small blood vessels of the eyes
Sometimes, detachment of a retina and vision problems