Dr Waleed Al Tay, Ophthalmologist at Dr. Sulaiman Al Habib Medical Center, Shaikh Zayed Road branch, talks about the common eye issues in newborns and their treatment options.
How does a baby’s eyes differ from the eyes of an adult?
The visual pathway consists of the eye, the optic nerve and the visual centre of the brain. While the eyes and the optic nerve are almost identical in children and adults, the main difference lies in the visual area of the brain.
This area in babies and toddlers is primitive, developing as they see and grow. It has to receive very clear images from the surrounding to mature. It’s critical for the eyes to see properly and send clear images to the brain.
Young babies and toddlers below the age of five must go for regular screening for vision to ensure that their eyes are sending clear images to their brains.
That’s why young babies and toddlers below the age of five must go for regular screening for vision to ensure that their eyes are sending clear images to their brains. Else, the visual area in the brain will stay primitive and immature, with the child eventually developing lazy eye or amblyopia.
What are the initial signs that the baby’s eyes aren’t healthy?
Sometimes babies over four or five months old suffer from what we call the wandering eyes, which fail to focus on a single object, wandering all around. Another sign of concern is a white reflex in the centre of the pupil, meaning there could be a paediatric cataract or congenital cataract. This could also point to some serious problems in the retina.
If there is excessive tearing in an infant even when he/she is not crying, this might indicate a congenital obstruction of the nasolacrimal duct, requiring medical intervention as early as possible. We can clear the obstruction by massaging the nasolacrimal duct, or through surgery. Excessive tearing may also indicate high intraocular pressure, especially if these are associated with a large cornea. In this case the baby has to visit a specialised ophthalmologist to rectify the problems.
What are the common eye issues that usually concern infants?
Infections in the eye is a common concern in infants. They can get these from parents, family members or at day care centres. Another common eye issue is poor vision, which must be corrected before the age of five years.
That’s why it is essential for parents to bring children to ophthalmologists regularly to make sure they have healthy vision. If any issue is left untreated, children may develop amblyopia.
Can a baby get eye infections at the time of birth?
Yes, the baby can contract an eye infection at the time of birth due to contaminants of bacteria from the birth canal or from unsterilised instruments used during birth.
Could you suggest some precautionary steps to prevent infant eye infections?
The baby should be born in a clean environment in a centre well prepared for the delivery of babies. Also don’t bring them in close contact with family members or friends who have any eye infections.
Could you brief us on Dr. Sulaiman Al Habib Hospital’s eye care facilities?
The integrated system of the Ophthalmology Centre at Dr. Sulaiman Al Habib Group provides healthcare services for all ages — from newborns to the elderly and geriatric patients.
The services are offered by specialised consultants in all eye disciplines such as vision correction, retinal issues, glaucoma, cataracts and strabismus in children.
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