Paying careful attention to baby’s eye development can help ensure that your infant’s eyes are developing properly.
Talk to your baby's pediatrician if you have any concerns or notice any of the symptoms below.
During the first two months, an infant’s eyes may appear to be crossed or to wander. This is usually normal and will correct itself as your baby’s vision continues to develop.
However, if an eye is constantly turning inward (toward the nose) or outward (away from the nose), evaluation by an eye doctor is warranted. Strabismus is a condition in which eyes appear misaligned or turn in opposite directions. This is not uncommon in babies, since their eyes are still learning to function as a unit.
The most obvious sign of crossed eyes is when the eyes appear to be pointed in different directions. There are, however, more signs of crossed eyes that can most often be observed in children:
Left untreated, congenital cataracts can damage the connection between the brain and the eyes. Once developed, these connections don’t change and can cause serious conditions ranging from "lazy eye" (amblyopia) to vision loss. Early detection and swift treatment are paramount to your child’s eye health.
Conjunctivitis is an irritation of the eye from infection or allergy. If not due to an allergy, it can be the result of a bacterial or viral infection (both are contagious and easily spread). This condition causes inflammation and irritation of the outer membrane of the eye and the inner eyelid.
While “pink eye” usually goes away on its own in about a week, it’s important that you keep your child home from school or daycare if they have contagious conjunctivitis. Symptoms can often be controlled at home, but a doctor may need to prescribe antibacterial eye drops. Check with your pediatrician if you notice any of the symptoms. The pediatrician can determine the underlying cause of pink eye and recommend the proper course of treatment.
Nystagmus is a condition where the eyes move rapidly and uncontrollably. It can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired (developing over time). When a baby’s eyes seem to jump, vibrate back and forth or move in a way that looks unusual to you, this is a signal that the eyes' motor system may not be developing normally. Congenital nystagmus is sometimes inherited, so tell your pediatrician or eye doctor during your baby’s first eye examination if nystagmus runs in your family.
Nystagmus needs to be diagnosed by an eye doctor.
Treating nystagmus depends on the type and cause. People born with nystagmus cannot be cured of the condition but may benefit from:
It’s estimated that roughly 20% of newborns have a blocked tear duct. It is a condition that is usually resolved on its own within four to six months. With a blocked tear duct, tears do not drain normally, which can cause a watery, irritated or infected eye.
A child might not be able to tell you their vision is blurry, and symptoms can go unnoticed by parents or caregivers. Protect your child’s vision with regular screening and eye exams.
Congenital glaucoma is when babies are born with a problem in the eyes that keeps fluid from draining properly. Very rarely, a baby will be born with glaucoma—only about one in 10,000 babies born in the United States have it. It occurs when the pressure in the eye (known as intraocular pressure or IOP) is above the range considered normal, which can be measured by an eye doctor.
Surgery to treat congenital glaucoma generally works well. Early detection and treatment are paramount to your baby’s eye health. Medical therapy may be used to help control IOP and clear the cornea prior to surgery, but most of the relevant medications are not approved for use in children. Surgery is the main treatment option. If surgery is performed early, babies usually won’t have any permanent vision loss. The main surgical treatment options include:
Both of these procedures have high success rates of up to 90% or greater.
Premature babies’ eyes may develop more slowly than babies who are delivered at full term. Length of term is important information for eye care providers.
Premature babies are more at risk for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a medical condition that requires treatment. In certain cases, laser treatment can reduce or prevent the risk of blindness in these children.
The National Eye Institute, a division of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), provides a great deal of information about this condition.
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