Signs of Vision and Eye Problems in Babies

While most vision develops perfectly in infants, there are some disorders that can become evident in those first 6 months of life.

Following birth, your newborn may be quite content to simply gaze into your eyes as you hold him in your arms. It’s exciting to know that during those first moments of bonding, your baby is seeing your face very clearly, as long at you’re about eight to twelve inches away and directly in front of your baby. As for colors, at birth babies see colors that are very bright and contrasting. Their full color vision is not developed until about 3 to 4 months of age, when they can determine hues and light shades. While vision problems are rare in newborns, some babies experience difficulties.

Infant Cataracts

Cataracts are a major cause of vision loss throughout the world. Usually age is a factor, with most people over 60 years of age having some degree of cataract formation. But age isn’t always a factor; cataracts can occur in newborns with devastating consequences. Ophthalmologist Dr. Roy Cline says it’s imperative that cataracts in newborns are discovered sooner rather than later. “If babies have cataracts blocking their vision, there’s no way for the visual sense to develop”, explains Dr. Cline. “And unless those cataracts are discovered within the first few days of birth, there may be irreversible loss of vision.”

Fortunately, physicians are on the lookout for newborn cataracts within the first few days of an infant’s life. “Your family doctor or pediatrician”, explains Dr. Cline, “is going to look at the red reflexes in a hospital nursery visit and also at the 6 week visit. A red reflex is when you look at the pupil and find a red light reflected back when you shine a light into the pupil. It tells you that light is getting into the eye and getting back out. If the red reflex is normal, then there are no cataracts and your baby is just fine. If cataracts are discovered then treatment is initiated immediately, and the outcome is excellent.”

Crossed Eyes

Another concern parents may have with newborn vision is strabismus or crossed eyes, affecting about 5% of all children. Many newborns eyes appear to wander because they haven’t yet learned to focus their vision, which is why crossed eyes are rarely cause for concern until a baby is at least a four months of age. If vision hasn’t improved by then and your baby’s eyes still appear to cross or wander out, you should have your baby examined by an eye specialist. If strabismus isn’t properly treated, permanent vision impairment could result.


Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.

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