Atanas Bogoev M.D. and Maria Cholakova
Protecting Your Newborn's Eyes & Preventing Common Eye Problems
Updated: 6 days ago
Newborns are highly sensitive and vulnerable, which also makes them susceptible to eye problems. Some of those are transient and resolve on their own, while others require additional and prompt medical attention. Early identification and treatment of eye problems are critical to prevent vision loss or long-term visual impairment.
As a parent, the well-being of your baby is always a priority. So we understand that knowing the first signs of eye disease, as well as treatment options for your little one is crucial for you. That's why we made this short and simple guide to help you recognize eye conditions in your newborn early on.
Table of Content:
1. Symptoms & Treatment of Common Eye Problems with Newborns and Babies
1.1. Blocked Tear Ducts
1.4. Retinopathy of Prematurity
1.5. Congenital Cataracts
2. The Importance of Vision Screenings
Symptoms & Treatment of Common Eye Problems with Newborns and Babies
Parents should be aware of the signs and symptoms of eye infections in newborns and seek a doctor's advice if they notice any abnormalities. Some of the eye problems to look out for include:
Blocked Tear Ducts
Blocked tear ducts are one of the most common eye problems in newborns. The tear ducts are tiny channels that drain tears from the eyes to the nose. When the tear ducts are blocked, the tears accumulate in the eyes, causing excessive tearing, eye discharge, secretions, and eventually eye infections.
Newborn eye discharge is usually the most noticeable symptom that worries parents right away. The blockage is usually a result of the failure of the ducts to open properly during fetal development. Most cases of blocked tear ducts resolve on their own within a few months without any treatment.
However, if the condition persists, the eye doctor may recommend a special type massage of the tear ducts and antibiotics eye drops to prevent eye infections. If the pressure massage does not help with the symptoms, surgical treatment is the next option.
This inflammation of the thin membrane covering the inner surface of the eyelids and the white part of the eye is known as conjunctivitis (pink eye). It is one of the most common eye infections in newborns.
There are many causes of conjunctivitis in babies, including bacteria, viruses, allergens, or irritants. In some cases, babies can acquire conjunctivitis during delivery if the mother has a sexually transmitted infection such as chlamydia or gonorrhea.
Conjunctivitis symptoms in newborns include redness of the eyes, swelling of the eyelids, newborn eye discharge, and sensitivity to light. Treatment options are antibiotic eye drops or ointments, antiviral medication, or steroid eye drops depending on the underlying cause of the condition.
Strabismus is a condition in which the eyes do not align properly. This causes one eye to look straight ahead while the other eye turns inward, outward, upward, or downward. There are a number of factors that cause strabismus, including muscle imbalances, neurological problems, or refractive errors.
Newborns with strabismus may have eye problems such as difficulty focusing their eyes. Or they may have a "lazy eye" that does not move in tandem with the other eye. Treatment options for strabismus include corrective lenses, eye patches, and vision therapy.
Retinopathy of Prematurity
Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is an eye disease occurring in premature infants and babies. ROP occurs due to abnormal blood vessel growth in the retina, the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye. It may result in vision loss or blindness if left untreated.
ROP symptoms include abnormal eye movements, white pupils, or blood vessels in the retina. Infant treatment options include laser therapy, cryotherapy, or surgery. Careful follow-up with an eye doctor is key.
Congenital cataracts are a rare but serious eye problem that affects newborns. Cataracts cloud the lens (the clear part of the eye that focuses light on the retina). Congenital cataracts arise from genetic factors, infections, or metabolic disorders.
Newborns with cataracts may have poor vision or a white pupil in one or both eyes. The most effective treatment option for congenital cataracts in newborns is surgery to remove the cataract and replace the lens with an artificial one.
RELATED: Understanding Your Baby's Eyes: Development, Milestones, and Care
The Importance of Vision Screenings
Newborns are susceptible to various eye problems and eye infections that may require prompt medical attention. This is the reason why vision screenings for children are particularly important. As a parent, you do not want to react when it is already too late.
During a regular vision screening the physician or pediatrician can detect potential and existing eye problems in newborns early. And therefore prevent long-term visual impairment by referring your baby to an ophthalmologist on time.
RELATED ARTICLES: What to Expect During a Pediatric Eye Exam?
Learn more about how to properly take care of your, your family's, and your children's vision and recognize eye conditions and infections in the Ophthalmology24 blog.
Blocked tear duct, American Academy of Ophthalmology
Strabismus, American Academy of Ophthalmology
Retinopathy of prematurity, National Eye Institute
Congenital cataract, American Academy of Ophthalmology
All medical facts and statements are checked by Atanas Bogoev M.D.