Everyone wants what’s best for their baby, and one of the most heartbreaking things for a parent to hear is that their baby has a development issues. Whether it be mental or physical, no one wants to get that news back from their pediatrician. The same goes for vision delays in babies.
Vision health may be on the lower end of concerns when it comes to your baby’s health. That doesn’t make you a bad parent; personal vision health isn’t at the top of many people’s lists either. But when you think of all the amazing images your baby may miss out on if their vision fails so early in life, it makes you more inclined to be sure they get to experience all the beauty, all the time.
If you have a newborn at home or one on the way, it’s always better to be informed than in the dark when it comes to your baby’s health and well-being. We’ll look over what could cause vision delays in babies, how to spot them, how to treat them and how to prevent them.
Vision Delays in Babies: Causes and Symptoms
Before we dive into how to identify vision delays, let’s talk about what some possible causes could be. As much as we’d like to believe it, babies are not made perfect. Visual development issues happen and the best way to deal with them is to understand what is happening in the eye.
A common vision delay in babies is caused by refracted errors such as nearsightedness and farsightedness. Nearsightedness causes the eye to be unfocused on far away objects, while farsightedness has the opposite effect of the eye being unfocused on objects close to the eye.
Another cause could be amblyopia, or lazy eye, which is also very common in children. Amblyopia happens when one eye is underdeveloped and turns outward. This is an issue that, if caught early, can be easily corrected and outgrown by children who have it.
Infantile cataracts could also be a potential vision delay in babies. Cataracts refer to the clouding of the eye’s lens, with causes blurry vision and glare. Although, this is a rare condition in babies.
Premature babies run the risk of developing retinopathy of prematurity. Babies born prematurely have underdeveloped blood vessels in the retina, which could be a potentially blinding disease or lead to various other vision conditions like retinal scarring and bleeding.
Strabismus, also known as crossed eyes, happens when a baby’s eyes seem to point in different directions. This happens when the brain has trouble controlling the movements of the eyes.
Symptoms to Look For
Babies have relatively blurry vision until the age of six months. However, you may be able to identify vision development delays as early as three months old. If your baby exhibits any of the following symptoms, a visit to the eye doctor may be in order. The earlier a vision problem is found, the easier it can be treated.
By three months old, your baby should be able to follow moving objects with their eyes. Test it out by slowly moving their favorite toy from side to side. If they are unable to follow it, it may be an indication of a more serious problem. The same goes for their hands. If they don’t notice their hands, it could be because they can’t see them.
If your baby has crossed eyes or has trouble moving their eyes (or one eye) in all directions, this could be a symptom of amblyopia or strabismus. Don’t delay a visit to your pediatrician.
At six months, be sure to make sure your baby’s eyes can follow objects at difference distances; one foot away, and six feet away. Other symptoms may be frequent tearing or eye drainage or constant eye turning.
Any of these signs call for a professional’s advice, at which point you may be referenced to an ophthalmologist for a more comprehensive exam.
Treatments for Delayed Vision
As eyes are unique, so are vision conditions and their respective treatments. These are the generally used treatments, but consult your doctor for more specific details on your infant’s condition.
Amblyopia is fairly easily treated with an eye patch (although new digital glasses may soon be a strong contender). By covering the stronger eye with an eye patch, the brain is forced to use the weaker eye. Eventually the weak eye will be forced to strengthen.
For nearsightedness and farsightedness, glasses are often used to correct the condition. The same applies to strabismus.
Prevention is key. It is always better to be proactive, especially with babies. You want to give them the best head start in life. One way to do that is to start while the baby is still in the womb.
A healthy diet does more than keep your baby well fed and healthy. It also contributes to the baby’s development. A healthy diet is a great way to encourage this development during pregnancy and after while breastfeeding.
Playing with toys also encourages eye development. Brightly colored and shapely toys are the best as babies begin to identify shapes and colors. You can strengthen your baby’s eyes with easy and fun eye exercises. One great exercise is simply getting your baby to follow the toy with their eyes; back and forth, and side to side.
Babies can’t know if they have a vision delay. It’s up to you as the parent to know what’s going on with your baby. Often babies won’t cry about vision issues, which make them more difficult to detect. A baby’s cry is a clear indication that something is wrong, but since babies don’t know anything better, they think what they’re seeing is the norm.
Babies shouldn’t be deprived of the ability to see before they even get the chance to experience it. Most vision development delays can be cured and treated before they have the time to grow and progress in the eye.