Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is an eye disorder that affects premature babies. During pregnancy, the blood supply for a part of the eye called the retina begins developing at 16 weeks and isn’t completed until a full-term baby is born (around 40 weeks). If a baby is born too early, this process is cut short. The blood vessels may develop abnormally instead, leading to scarring, retinal detachment and potentially vision loss.1

ROP is more common in babies that1:

  • Are born very prematurely, particularly before the 28th week of pregnancy
  • Have a low birth weight of less than 1,500 g
  • Require oxygen treatment soon after being born

In most cases, ROP is mild and gets better on its own. However, a small proportion of babies have more severe disease and require treatment.2

If left untreated, severe disease can result in serious vision impairment.2


Where can I find more information on ROP?

The following organisations are sources for support, advice and information.

Support, advice and information for parents of premature babies

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)
Support, advice and information for those living with sight loss
Helpline: 0303 123 9999
Mon–Fri 8am–8pm, Sat 9am–5pm



  1. Royal National Institute of Blind People. Retinopathy of prematurity. Available at: [Accessed June 2020].
  2. Royal College of Ophthalmologists. Retinopathy of prematurity guideline. 2008. Available at: [Accessed June 2020].
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OPT20-C039e September 2020.

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