When you first bring your baby home from the hospital you will notice many things about your baby’s appearance which may alarm you. Some of these things are quite normal and usually go away with time. Things such as patchy skin or flaky scalps are all quite normal occurrences in newborns. On the other hand you may notice something off about your baby’s eyes. Perhaps they appear to be crossed or out of focus. In addition, there are many normal eye function issues which work themselves out with time but there are also just as many more serious problems, and it is important to know the difference. Ultimately, the best thing to do any time you have questions about your baby’s eyes is address them with your pediatrician. However, some of the more following problems are more commonly found in babies eyes.
Pseudostrabismus (Falsely Misaligned Eyes)
Once in awhile infants seem to have eyes which are crossed when in fact they are actually straight. This is known as pseudostrabismus, a condition in which the nasal bridge is wide or there are extra folds of skin between the inside of the eye and the nose. This can give the baby the appearance of being cross eyed. Most of the time this condition works itself out with time and the baby grows out of it. The best thing to do in this situation is ask your pediatrician as he/she will be able to determine whether or not your baby is truly cross eyed or not. In rare cases it may become necessary to consult an ophthalmologist for further testing.
Strabismus (Misaligned Eyes)
About 4% of all babies born have some form of this disorder. This is a condition in which one eye seems to gaze straight forward and the other looks upward, downward or inward. When one of the eyes turns inward this is known as esotropia (crossed eyes). There are two common forms of this particular disorder. Some children are born with this condition and some develop it sometime after birth, usually prior to age two. This is typically cause by the muscles that surround the eyes being too tight. The most common form of treatment for this condition usually involves surgery and is almost always performed before the baby reaches two years old. The second form of esotropia is cause by extreme farsightedness. The difference between this form and the first is that this one usually develops sometime between the ages of 2 and 6 and is almost always corrected through the use of glasses.
This condition is another form of misaligned eyes and differs a bit from the previous. The appearance of eyes which look outward is the way exotropia presents itself. This particular form of misaligned eyes does not usually afflict children until they are anywhere from 2 to 7 years of age. This is a progressive eye condition which means that it may start out with a few barely visible incidences of the eyes turning outward and become worse as the child gets older. In addition, a child with exotropia may squint with one eye when exposed to bright light such as that from the sun. Unfortunately, most of the time, a surgical procedure is needed for this particular disorder of the eyes. Children who suffer from any form of misaligned eyes should see an eye doctor and obtain treatment right away. This condition, if left untreated, can lead to what is known as a “lazy eye”. This happens as a result of the vision being turned off for too long in the eye which is turning inward or outward. The lazy eye will occur when the vision has suffered too much trauma for long periods of time.
Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)
This is an infection of the eye which causes redness and swelling, hence the term “pink eye”. This condition is very contagious and in most cases is caught when someone who has it comes in contact with the infant. This condition is not serious if treated right away and is generally treated with antibiotic salve which is made specifically for use in the eyes. This condition can be identified in most cases when the baby wakes up with crust which is hindering the eye or eyes from opening. This is because there is an over abundance of puss present in the eyes and as the baby sleeps it dries up on the eyelids. A warm, moist towel is generally all it takes to open the eyes.
Problems With the Tear Ducts
Typically the tear duct system, which allows tears to properly drain from the eyes and into the nose opens by the time the baby is around 3 months of age. However, in some cases the system does not open in which case the result is a blockage. This can cause an excess of tears as well as mucus. In addition, there are other conditions that can cause your babies eyes to tear profusely. For this reason it is important to consult your pediatrician if you notice that your baby’s eyes seem to be running or tearing more than what is normal. In many cases the solution is a simple as a series of gentle massages applied to the tear ducts. However, in more extreme cases there is a possibility that a probe or other invasive surgical procedure could become necessary.
Because the eyes are such a sensitive and important attribute, it is important to pay close attention to your baby and any issues he/she may be having. There are dozens of other conditions which could occur with your baby or child’s eyes. For this reason it is always important to report anything you think may be relevant, no matter how big or small the issue, to your doctor. You can never be too cautious when it comes to something as precious as your baby’s vision.
Very thorough explanation. However I cannot find anything about eyelid problems. My baby daughter (who is mixed Asian/Caucasian), has since last week different eyelid shapes. I think this is because it's just developing in an asymmetrical way. Her eyes have done that before, in fact it was her other eye that appeared bigger before. Anyways, great article, great website. Sorry for the unrelated question.