Good vision and healthy eyes play an important role in infant development so baby eye health will be checked several times throughout the first hours, weeks, and months of their life to identify any issues.
In the UK, checking your baby’s eyes for any health problems is part of a routine newborn physical examination. There is then a follow-up physical examination performed between six and eight weeks by your GP.
Checking Baby Eye Health
Eye-related health issues in new-born babies are rare but can include:
- Strabismus: Some babies develop strabismus, commonly known as a squint. This presents as either a constant or occasional misalignment of the eyes. Treatment may include glasses, patching and surgery to align the eyes. It is essential that any baby with a squint gets a specialist to look for the cause of the squint to check for the cause.
- Cataracts: congenital cataracts are a rare condition affecting newborns. It is tested for using the ‘red reflex test’ in their first check-up. If there is a cause for concern, there will be a follow-up at hospital within the first few weeks after birth.
- Teary or watery eyes: newborn babies do not have the capacity to produce tears at first and this usually develops after a few weeks. You may then notice their eyes seem constantly teary which is the result of a blocked tear duct. This will usually resolve itself in the first year and is not a cause for concern. But if the eye becomes red and swollen then it could be a sign of infection.
- Conjunctivitis: in newborns this is called ophthalmia neonatorum and presents as swollen eyelids, redness of the eye and sticky discharge. You should see your GP as soon as possible to prevent any long-term damage to the eye.
Mr Imran Jawaid is a consultant ophthalmologist who specialises in paediatric ophthalmology and the treatment of strabismus. To arrange a consultation, call 0115 924 9924.