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Eye Exam for Retinopathy of Prematurity

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:


Eye Exam for Retinopathy of Prematurity


Eye exams can show the tissue and blood vessels at the back of the eye. This area is called the retina of the eye. Babies with retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) have problems with blood vessel growth in this area.

Normal Anatomy of the Eye.

http://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=24292429si55550964.jpgNormal Anatomy of the EyeNULLjpgNormal Anatomy of the EyeNULL\\filer01\Intellect\images\si55550964.jpgCopyright © 2002 Nucleus Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.20NULL2002-10-012553912429_588196Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Reasons for Procedure

ROP can cause vision problems or loss in some babies. This exam is done to:

  • Screen for ROP in babies who are high risk—test will be repeated until blood vessels in eyes have fully grown
  • Track changes in babies who have ROP

Possible Complications

During the exam, the baby may need eye drops. The doctor will go over any problems that may be caused by eye drops, such as:

  • Stinging or discomfort in the eye
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurred vision
  • Eyelid swelling
  • Red eyes

Talk about these risks with the doctor before the eye exam.

What to Expect

Problems To Look Out For

Call the doctor if your baby has any problems such as:

  • Discharge from the eye
  • Redness or swelling
  • Not responding to objects, movement, or light
  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Any new symptoms

If you think your baby has an emergency, call for medical help right away.

Prior to Procedure

  • Do not feed your baby right before the exam.
  • Ask about ways to help calm your baby during the exam. A pacifier may help.

The doctor will put eye drops in the baby’s eyes. These will make the pupils open wide. The drops will take about 30 to 60 minutes to work.





  • Freitas, A, Mörschbächer, R, et al. Incidence and risk factors for retinopathy of prematurity: a retrospective cohort study. Int J Retin Vitr, 2018; 4: 20.
  • Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/retinopathy-of-prematurity-rop-20.
  • Retinopathy of prematurity. National Eye Institute website. Available at: https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/retinopathy-prematurity.


  • Mary-Beth Seymour, RN
Last Updated:

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.