Baby Symptoms & Conditions

Eye Problems In Babies

Swollen, crossed or bloodshot eyes are actually considered normal for newborns. Here’s the scoop on how to know baby’s eye issue is actually an issue and when to seek treatment for it.

What is considered an eye problem for a baby?

newborn baby doesn’t pay much attention to the world she sees around her, but by around six or eight weeks, she’ll start to fix her attention on an object and follow its movement. And remarkably, doctors are able to determine whether there are any significant vision problems shortly after birth. Parents get concerned if baby’s eyes change color, if there’s swelling or discharge, or if there’s a problem with her eyes aligning correctly.

What could be causing my baby’s eye problem?

Some babies enter the world with pinkeye, which they’ve picked up as they’ve made their journey down the birth canal. Some are also born with a blocked tear duct (which can lead to eye infections as the tears back up) or with problems in the small muscles surrounding the eye, which can lead to an eye misalignment or an imbalance in vision. If your baby’s developed jaundice (very common after birth) you may also see her eyes turn a slightly yellow shade.

When should I take my baby to see the doctor with an eye problem?

As long as you’ve kept up with baby’s regular checkups, your pediatrician will likely already be aware of potential problems. But if your baby still has some eye muscle control problems after four months, talk with your doctor to clear up any neurological or muscular concerns. Otherwise, any colored discharge (green, yellow) is worth a phone call to rule out infection. 

What should I do to treat my baby’s eye problem?

It all depends on the doc’s diagnosis. If you spot a lot of discharge, try using a damp, warm washcloth or cotton ball to gently wipe it away from the eye. Issues like blocked tear ducts typically clear up on their own. Your doctor may also recommend eyedrops to alleviate any infections.

By Anita Chandra-Puri, MD, pediatrician with Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group and instructor of clinical pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine