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Babies Eye Concerns

While chances are excellent that your baby's vision will develop normally, some infants have a higher risk for certain conditions that may affect their sight later in life.

As babies grow and their eyes reach full development, parents are often the first to notice signs that their baby may have special vision needs. Don't hesitate to talk to your baby's optometrist if you have any concerns.

Are There Symptoms I Should Watch For?

Find the symptom below to learn more about the potential eye problems, what to watch for, and what can be done if/when your baby needs special eye care.

Crossed eyes

It’s not uncommon for an infant’s eyes to look crossed, as if they’re turned in opposite directions. One eye may turn in towards the nose, or the eyes may seem to move independently, as if they can’t work together. For a baby less than three months old, the eyes are still learning to function as a unit – so crossing is simply a sign of continuing development.  If the crossed eyes persist after your baby reaches three months old, it’s time to talk to your eye doctor about strabismus, a medical condition that can and should be treated.

One child in 20 has crossed eyes or trouble tracking. Yet these problems are not always obvious. Almost half of all cases aren't detected until after age five, far past the time when they can be treated most effectively. If there’s any question in your mind as to whether your child has crossed eyes, just ask your eye doctor.

Drooping eyelid

If your baby’s eyelid seems to droop over the eye in a way that looks as though it would block your baby’s vision, your baby may be developing amblyopia, which is also known as “lazy eye.”  Sometimes amblyopia can result if your baby has crossed eyes for longer than the first three months of life. One eye becomes stronger than the other, leading to blurring or a loss of vision in the weaker eye. Your eye care professional may treat this condition by placing an eye patch over the stronger eye for an extended period – from weeks to months – to strengthen the weaker eye.

Milky white covering over the pupil

In rare cases, babies are born with a childhood cataract in one or both eyes. This can appear as a milky white covering over the pupil, and may be detected at birth. The good news is that your optometrist can correct childhood cataracts by replacing the cloudy lens with a clear one in a surgical procedure, restoring your baby’s eyesight.   

Pink eyes

If your baby’s eyes have yellowish or greenish discharge in the morning, and are red and irritated, your infant may have a common condition called conjunctivitis. While this does require treatment, it’s a temporary medical condition.

Vibrating Eyes

If your baby’s eyes seem to jump, vibrate back and forth, or move erratically in a way that looks unusual to you, he or she may be one in about 670 born each year with nystagmus.  This condition may signal that the eyes’ motor system is not developing normally.  If you have a relative with nystagmus, or if you have it yourself, it’s possible that your baby could develop this as well – so it’s important to tell your pediatrician or eye doctor during your baby’s first eye examination if nystagmus runs in your family. 

Watery Eyes

If your baby’s eyes seem to water all the time, whether the baby is crying or cheerful, your child may have chronically clogged or infected tear ducts – a condition known as congenital stenosis. You may see crusting or discharge around the eye, especially first thing in the morning. Generally, there’s no treatment required, babies outgrow this in their first year.

Can Babies Suffer from Glaucoma?

baby-lookingVery rarely, a baby will be born with Glaucoma.

Babies with glaucoma exhibit some behavioural and physical signs that you may recognise as unusual. Often, these babies don’t like bright lights or sunshine. Their eyes may tear more than normal, and one eye may look larger than the other. Also, the eyes may bulge, a symptom known as buphthalmos, or “ox eyes.”

Are Premature Babies at More Risk for Eye Issues?

Premature babies’ eyes may develop more slowly than babies who are delivered at full term. Be sure to tell your eye care professional if your baby was premature, because in some cases, premature babies can have retinopathy of prematurity, a medical condition that requires treatment.