What your baby can see affects more than just his eyes. For example, if one eye is looking in one direction and the other eye is looking in another, that isn't just a sight issue. It might mean he'll also have trouble learning and processing information -- and will benefit from early treatment. Also, untreated infections can lead to vision damage. That's why it's important to watch for any eye or vision issues and to be proactive about both prevention and treatment. Here, some common eye-related conditions in children:
- Blocked tear duct common within the first few months, this happens because the duct is small at birth and normal secretions can clog it. To treat it, you can "milk" the tear duct by gently rubbing it outward (it's located under the eye, on the inside corner). This should force the goop out and unblock the duct. If you see green goo, the area is infected, and your doctor can prescribe a topical antibiotic.
- Nearsightedness and farsightedness this means your baby has a hard time seeing either up close or far away and will need glasses. Some signs: he's having a hard time focusing on objects that are either near or distant. Rubbing eyes can also signal vision impairment. In an exam, the doctor will check your baby's pupils, see how they react to changes in the level of light, and ask your child to follow a light with his eyes. If your doc senses a problem, he may refer you to a pediatric ophthalmologist, who can do some tests using an instrument called a retinoscope; this determines the degree of vision troubles, if any. Mild vision problems typically aren't detected until age 3.
- Misaligned eyes in some kids, eyes can cross inward or outward because of weak eye muscles or developmental problems. Surgery on the muscles surrounding the eyes can sometimes help realign eyes. But often, doctors like to try therapy first, such as vision therapy or therapeutic lenses, to see if vision can improve without surgery.
- Pinkeye a red, itchy, goopy eye may signal conjunctivitis, an infection. If your doc determines that the infection is bacterial, she'll prescribe antibiotic eye drops. If the infection is viral (indicated by a runny nose and a cold), baby should get better on his own within ten days. Both kinds of infection are contagious, so wash up after touching baby's eyes or hands.