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Vision Problems in Infants
Vision Problems in Infants
By Rochelle Caviness - Updated December 7, 2003
When children are born, they can see, but they cannot see clearly. This can make it difficult to determine if your child was born with a vision-related problem. The only time that it is easy for a parent to detect a problem is if it is externally obvious, such as if the child has crossed eyes. When the problem is internal, you may be unaware that your child is suffering from a vision-related problem.
Signs that your child might have a vision-related problem.
- As part of your infant's well baby care, be sure to include a profession eye exam.
- Prevent Blindness America recommends that infants be examined shortly after birth, then again when they are six months old.
- Many eye problems have no symptoms. Therefore, it is important to have your child's eyes examined, even if you don't notice any problems.
- According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a 12-month old baby has vision similar to that of an adult.
A baby cannot tell you when they are having trouble seeing or when something hurts, therefore you must become a detective and be on the look out for signs that your baby's behavior may be telling you that he needs to see an eye doctor. Signs to look for include:
Some of the Common Vision Problems in Infants
- Red or watery eyes
- Constantly crossed eyes
- One eye seems to wonder
- One or both eyes moves about constantly.
- Drooping eyelid
- Constant rubbing of eyes
- Eyes appear to be bulging
- Any discoloration of the eyes
- Appearance of a cyst or inflammation
- A baby, which is older than two months, who will not make eye contact with you
- For those over three months, you are unable to attract the baby's attention when you hold something in front of him, or if he does not follow an object with his eyes as it is moved.
Falsely Misaligned Eyes (Pseudostrabismus)
- This occurs when the infant's eyes appear to be crossed but in reality it is merely an illusion caused because their noses are wide or they have a lot of skin between the nose and the eyes. As they get older, their eyes will begin to look 'straighter'.
- Approximately 4% of all children suffer from strabismus.
- Esotropia refers to crossed eyes and it occurs when the eyes turn inward. In infants this is often caused by the muscles of the eye being too tight and is often treated via surgery. When esotropia develops in older children the cause is often farsightedness and the condition can be treated with glasses.
- Exotropia occurs when the eyes face outwards and is most often a problem associated with older children.
- Amblyopia affects about 2% of children and results when an otherwise healthy eye is not being used properly, consequently it gets 'lazy', and vision can be impaired. It is often a side effect of problems such as strabismus or uncorrected refractive errors. Treatment usually involves covering the good eye in order to make the lazy eye 'work'.
Droopy Eyelids (Ptosis)
- Cataracts are often associated with the elderly. However, they can also be present at birth. Correction is usually through surgical removal of the cataract.
Swollen Eyelids (Blepharitis)
- Droopy eyelids can cause vision problems because they can block the field of vision. Ptosis can be correct surgically.
Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)
- This results from an inflammation of the oil glands in the eyelids, and may cause the eyelids to become incrusted. Treatments can include simply washing the eyelid with warm water, or antibiotics if an infection is present.
How is an infant's vision checked?
- Pink eye, in infants, is often caused by a viral or bacterial infection in which the whites of the eye become pink. It is usually treated with medicated eye drops or ointments.
An eye exam for an infant is similar to that of an adult. The ophthalmologist (eye doctor) will look at the outside of the eye, and than will look in the baby's eye with a light to view the interior structure of the eye. The doctor may also dilate the baby's eyes with drops to better view the retina and the blood vessels in the back of the eye. If any problems are noticed, additional tests may be conducted.
This article is for information purposes only, always consult your doctor for medical advice.
- There are Pediatric Vision Tests available to check a child's visual acuity, however these tests are normally not useful on children under the age of 14 months.
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