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Common eye infections in babies

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Eye infection in babies

There are several eye conditions that could make your newborn baby uncomfortable, such as eye infections. Here are some of the common eye infections that your baby might have as well as their common causes, signs, and symptoms. It is important to know how these infections are contracted in order to prevent or manage them. 

1. Conjunctivitis

One of the most common eye infections in babies is conjunctivitis, an eye condition caused by an obstructed tear duct, irritation, or infection. If your baby is born with very narrow tear ducts or tear ducts that have been totally obstructed, tears produced from the tear glands inside the upper eyelids of the eyes would not drain away. Hence your baby’s eyes would always be wet, red, and puffy, and tears would frequently run down the cheeks. Also, your baby might also produce a sticky discharge in their eyes. 

Picture of an eye

Another possible cause of conjunctivitis is a viral or bacterial infection passed from the mother to the child during birth. For example, if the mother has genital infections such as chlamydia or gonorrhea (a venereal disease with inflammatory vaginal discharge), she could likely transmit the infection and cause the newborn child to develop conjunctivitis. If left untreated, the infection can spread to other parts of the baby’s body, and in some rare cases might even affect the baby’s lungs [1].

A doctor would generally use antibiotic eye drops such as erythromycin to prevent conjunctivitis in your baby. Once your baby is found to be infected, your doctor would rinse your baby’s eyes with a saline solution to get rid of any particles that might have arisen because of the infection.

If your baby’s conjunctivitis is due to a bacterial infection, treatment can include antibiotics based on the gravity of the infection and the type of bacteria that caused it. If your baby is suffering from conjunctivitis because of a blocked tear duct, the doctor may delicately massage the nasal and eye area to unblock it. That being said, if the tear duct still continues to be blocked, your baby might require surgery.

2. Chalazion

A chalazion is a cyst or swollen bump due to congestion and inflammation in one of the oil glands in your baby’s upper or lower eyelid(s). This cyst presents itself as a bump that usually develops further back on the eyelid than a stye. As your baby’s chalazion enlarges, the eyelids might get swollen and red. If the chalazion is big enough to exert force or pressure on the eyeball, your baby might suffer from blurry vision.

One difference between a chalazion and a stye is that the former does not secrete discharge and is not painful [2]. Do not squeeze a chalazion in hopes that it would subside. Instead, administer ointments and antibiotics prescribed by the doctor to your newborn. If the chalazion is so huge that it affects your baby’s vision, you might have to send your baby for surgery to have the chalazion drained by an eye health professional.

A useful home remedy to deal with a chalazion is to soak a cloth in hot water and gently place it on your baby’s eyelid(s) for around ten minutes at a time, three to five times daily. By placing a warm cloth on your baby’s eyelid(s), you can drain off the congested oil gland.

3. Stye

Another common eye infection in babies is a stye, also known as a hordeolum, which is a painful, small and red lump that grows from the bottom of your baby’s eyelash or under your baby’s eyelid(s). The lump feels tender and contains pus. You might observe yellow or white discharge from your baby’s eyes. 

An external stye that starts at the base of your baby’s eyelash is typically caused by an infection in the hair follicle. An internal stye or hordeolum that is located inside your baby’s eyelid(s) is mainly caused by an infection in the oil gland in the eyelid in question. 

Your baby can also develop a stye when he or she has blepharitis and you may observe red and swollen eyelids at the base of the eyelashes. You might feel that your baby’s eyelid margin is crusty, and also see that your baby’s eyes tear more frequently than usual due to the stye. 

Your doctor might prescribe an antibiotic to address your baby’s stye. At home, soak a cloth in warm water and place it on your baby’s eyelid(s) for the heat to open up the pus in the stye.

Picture of a baby crying

4. Blepharitis

Blepharitis is an eye condition that arises when your baby’s eyelids are inflamed such that they look swollen and red. Blepharitis occurs because of a bacterial infection or as a result of an overproduction of oil in the eyelid(s). If not addressed properly, this condition might lead to conjunctivitis, a stye, or chalazion.

Blepharitis develops when bacteria at the base of your baby’s eyelashes leads to flakes or crusts that look like dandruff. Your baby’s eyelids might be inflamed, red and watery. You might also find oily particles (crusts) or flakes at the base of your baby’s eyelashes. 

To deal with blepharitis, you can mix baby shampoo with warm water and carefully scrub your baby’s eyelids and eyelashes regularly when crusting occurs. You can also use antibiotic drops prescribed by your doctor for your baby’s eyes. 

 

Eye infections, if left unaddressed, could lead to more serious vision problems. If you observe any of the above signs and symptoms in your newborn child, schedule an appointment with an eye health professional to get their eyes checked. It is also important to note that the development of eye conditions may even start before symptoms appear, which makes going for regular and timely eye checks that much more essential.

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