The Eyes Of The New-Born

By Gilbert Adimora
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The eyes of a newborn baby can also be a cause of concern for the mother for many reasons. Generally babies do not open their eyes easily for one to see but when they do, a few things can be seen which can cause anxiety for the mother.

In some babies, after birth a patch of red area can be seen on the conjunctiva (the white of the eye) as if something has hit the eye. Naturally this is a cause of concern for the mother. This patch of redness is caused by pressure on the eyes when the baby was passing through the birth canal. The pressure leads to the rupture of some tiny vessels in the areas where the pressure is highest, but this is usually minimal. This condition needs no treatment as the red area disappears after some days.

However, if the eyes are uniformly red and with possible discharge of clear or coloured fluid, medical attention is needed.

A few days after birth some babies develop yellowish or whitish or watery eye discharge which in some cases may cause the eyelids to stick together especially in the mornings. Most eye discharges in babies are caused by infective organisms usually contacted through the mothers’ birth canal during the process of delivery. They should be properly treated and in doing so the mother ideally should also receive treatment to avoid infecting future babies. Depending on the organism causing the infection, eye discharge in babies should be easily treated.

Some mothers are advised to use their breast milk to treat eye discharge as eye drops. This is not in any way helpful and could actually endanger the babies’ eyes by worsening the infection. Breast milk is usually sterile but can also be contaminated and infect the baby’s eyes. Apart from this it is also a good medium for growth of infective organisms which can harm the eyes.

Herbs and other remedies are not advisable for use in the treatment of eye discharges in babies especially now that effective, easy to apply drugs are available. The doctor should be consulted as early as possible.

The most common cause is jaundice which is fully dealt with in a subsequent chapter.

This is when the two eyes are not pointing in the same direction when focusing on an object as should be the case. This should not be a source of worry. The child should be handled by an ophthalmologist when he/she is a little older.

I have seen some mothers worried about this rare feature of the upper eyelids. Usually involving one upper eyelid, the affected lid droops lower than the other side. In most babies this feature runs in families and one or more older relations may be seen with the same feature. Most times nothing can be done about this, but more importantly it doesn’t have any effect on the child’s sight. The child can see normally. The only problem is only cosmetic. An ophthalmologist should however be consulted to carry out proper examinations to confirm that there are no other problems.

Professor Adimora is the medical director of Favoured child Clinic, Enugu. A Consultant Paediatrician with the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu and Senior Lecturer in the department of paediatrics, college of medicine, University of Nigeria Nsukka, Nigeria. A bible teacher. He is also the author of the book 'Anxieties of a young mother'. Author’s website: E:mail: [email protected] [email protected]


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