Newborn Baby Eye Care

Keep Those Tiny, Perfect Eyes Clean and Healthy

Newborn baby eye care. Nino H. Photography

The tiny, delicate eyes of a newborn baby need proper care. There are three areas of importance when it comes to keeping your eyes on your baby's eyes. 

Ophthalmia neonatorum (Infant eye infection)

Ophthalmia neonatorum is a type of eye infection or conjunctivitis, that newborn babies are at risk for. In the 1800's, a physician named Carl Crede found that infants were catching ophthalmia neonatorum during vaginal delivery.

He discovered that the infections were caused by gonorrhea, a type of sexually transmitted disease. These infections, if left untreated, can cause blindness. The number of cases dropped immediately after he started instilling silver nitrate into newborns eyes right after delivery. Silver nitrate eye instillation can be very painful to a newborn and cause a toxic conjunctivitis. In today's medical environment, erythromycin eye ointment is used. Erythromycin ointment instillation is comfortable for the infant and effective at reducing gonococcal infections as well as infections caused by chlamydia. Chlamydia is a more common cause of ophthalmia neonatorum today. If an infection is present in the mother, a baby can also be delivered by Caesarean section surgery (C-section.) to avoid passing the infection to the baby. However, many people who have chlamydia or gonorrhea do not have any outward symptoms.

As a result, one can have an infection and not know it. 

Some medical facilities give a new parent an explanation and option of having an antibiotic ointment instilled into the babies eyes upon delivery. However, in today's world, there are certain movements that attempt to recommend not to have things such as this done to a newborn baby.

There are always risks to weigh when considering medical treatment. If you choose not to do this, then monitor your baby's eyes closely soon after birth for potential eye infections.

Nasolacrimal duct obstruction (Blocked tear duct)

Newborns begin to produce tears around three weeks. Around this time, watch for excess mucus production or discharge. Some babies are born with blocked tear ducts. A blocked tear duct causes tears to form in the eyes and roll down the cheeks. Sometimes, a bacterial infection can develop because the tears do not drain properly. Blocked tear ducts should be evaluated by a pediatrician, as they may require treatment if an infection develops. However, most blocked tear ducts tend to open on their own during the first year of life. 

Using a soft washcloth or a cotton ball and plain water, you can carefully cleanse your baby’s eyes. Dampen a cloth or cotton ball with a little bit of warm water. With the baby's eyes closed, gently wipe the eyes from the inside to the outside corners.

Use a different part of the cloth or a new cotton ball for each eye.

If the infection seems more severe or there is significant eyelid swelling, your pediatrician will most likely refer you to a pediatric ophthalmologist for evaluation. If the treatment stated above does not work, your baby may need surgery. 

Leukocoria (White Pupil)

Another aspect that pediatricians and eye doctors will look out for in a newborn is a white-looking pupil. Sometimes, babies can be born with congenital cataracts. A cataract is an opacification or clouding of the eye's natural lens. Normal cataract development occurs as we age and grow into our 6th and 7th decade of life. However, occasionally, a baby is born with this opacification. Although not required immediately, cataract surgery is considered very early to avoid permanent vision problems later in life. 

Another cause of a white pupil is a rare eye cancer called retinoblastoma. Retinoblastoma develops within the retina, the light-sensitive layer in the back of the eye. Retinoblastoma must be treated immediately as it can destroy the eye and sometimes, worse, may spread to other parts of the body.

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