Your little one's eyes

Eye infections in newborns are not uncommon, and can be treated easily. But there are a few not-so-common eye abnormalities in babies, that parents need to watch out for, cautions Dr Mahipal S Sachdev.

The arrival of a newborn is a great occasion for the entire family to celebrate, and all eyes are on the baby. But for parents, it is important to keep an eye on their baby’s eyes. 

Infections inside the baby’s eye may have been transmitted from the mother during pregnancy. It can be confirmed by performing the TORCH test on both the mother and the child. 

Any eye abnormality detected at birth should be immediately brought to the notice of an eye specialist. An infant’s eyes are slightly smaller than that of an adult. It takes around two years for a baby’s eyes to develop to a size similar to that of an adult. 

Eye infections in newborns are not uncommon:

n Between the period of birth and three weeks, a baby can suffer from neonatal conjunctivitis. It presents as redness and discharge. This infection needs to be controlled by using appropriate antibiotics prescribed by the eye specialist. 

n During the first four weeks of a baby’s life, the tear secretions are less than normal, so any watering from the eye is abnormal. 

n Discharge and watering from the eyes, when the baby is three weeks old or more, suggests the failure of the tear ducts to open. Massage at the bridge of your baby’s nose to help the ducts open up, and consult the doctor to find out if any antibiotic drops or a probing procedure might be needed. 

n Buphthalmos or infantile glaucoma is a condition in which watering may be accompanied by severe photophobia (sensitivity to light). It needs treatment with drops, followed by surgery. 

n Big eyes may not always be normal. And also, if the central black part of the eye (cornea) is hazy or has white areas, it needs immediate consultation.n It does not happen very often, but a child may have a congenital eyelid coloboma in which, a part of the eyelid may be missing. 

n The baby’s eye movement must be observed carefully. If there is any restriction in the eye movement, it may be nerve palsy. Also, check for ocular alignment; misaligned eyes suggest a squint. However, some variations in alignment are acceptable as normal upto the age of six months. 

n The baby’s visual acuity may be assessed by observing his/her response to light and objects. It is extremely rare, but there are babies, whose eyes fail to develop at all. 
Here go a few signs that can help you spot an eye problem in your baby:

n Constant rubbing of eyesn Extreme light sensitivityn Poor focusingn Poor visual tracking in following an objectn Abnormal alignment or movement of the eyes, post six monthsn Chronic redness of the eyesn Chronic tearing of the eyesn A white pupil instead of black
In school-going children, watch out for these signs and act before it’s too late:

n Inability to see objects at a distancen Inability to read the blackboardn Squintingn Difficulty in readingn Sitting too close to the TV

Early identification and treatment of any such abnormality is important. Often, all we look for is the colour of the baby’s eyes or resemblances to the father, mother or other members of the family.

There are other essential cues that we need to pay heed to, as babies tend to grow very quickly, marking various milestones. 

Timely detection and effective intervention can actually change the way your bundle of joy looks at the world. 
(The writer is the chairman, Centre for Sight)

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