Margret didn’t know what to do.
Her 2-month-old infant, Roman, had pooling tears around his baby blue right eye all morning long, yet he wasn’t crying. She also began noticing it was slightly puffy and red.
“That’s when I called my mom,” Margret says. “She always calms me down, and I had started feeling frantic. A friend’s baby had to have his tear duct unclogged and it had really stressed her out.”
Margret needn’t have worried. Blocked tear ducts are very common in infants — many are born with their ducts clogged — and baby ducts are so teeny-weeny, water can easily get stuck inside. Without draining, that water can become infected.
Margret learned from her pediatrician how to gently massage Roman’s clogged duct with her clean finger just beneath the nasal corner of his eye where she could also feel a teeny bump. This worked for her little guy in two days time. To help him along, Margret sometimes will massages his eye during diaper changes, knowing that by age 1 she shouldn’t have to anymore.
According to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt
website, more than 90 percent of baby tear ducts open up spontaneously by the time a child is 1. Sometimes antibiotic drops will be prescribed, and only after that, if infections continue to occur, will a doctor start talking about probing.
IF TEAR DUCTS NEED PROBING
No, it’s not fun to know your little one may need his tear ducts surgically unclogged — a nasolacrimal duct probing — but it’s usually done quickly (within five minutes time) and it can clear up your baby’s issues. It’s recommended when your child has chronic infections, the duct is fully clogged or if there’s a bluish bulging area alongside his nose. Depending on your baby’s age, local or general anesthesia may be used, according to the book Your Child’s Health
(Bantam; 2005) by Barton Schmitt, M.D.
It’s bound to happen: you see a red bump emerging at the base of your child’s eyelashes and your child complains that something’s in his eye. Styes can happen to anyone at any age when an oil gland on the eyelid gets clogged. They’re usually harmless but irritating and unsightly, and you can usually help your child get rid of it with these tips from the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO):
- Rinse a clean washcloth with warm water, wring it out, and use it as a compress over the closed eye for 10 to 15 minutes. As the washcloth cools, wet it with more warm water. Do this three to four times a day. Do not squeeze the stye as it will hurt and irritate it.
- Along with compresses, your pediatrician may prescribe anti-inflammatory eye drops or, in some cases, may need to make a small opening to drain the stye.
CONJUNCTIVITIS (PINK EYE)
It’s hard to miss: your child’s eyes are crusty, maybe even stuck together, and the eyes look sensitive with the lid interiors bright red. It’s pink eye — aka conjunctivitis — which can be caused by a virus, bacteria or even allergies. There are 5 million cases in the United States every year, according to the AAO, making it a very common ailment in kids.
Bacterial conjunctivitis causes that gooey discharge and matted lids and will usually be present in both eyes, whereas with viral conjunctivitis, it’s often just in one eye.
No matter what, your child needs an antibacterial eye-drop prescription to clear it up as it’s highly contagious — keep hands clean!
LAZY EYE (AMBLYOPIA)
Simply put, lazy eye means poor vision in one of the eyes that’s otherwise normal, according to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS). It’s the most common cause of visual impairment in kids, brought on by a misalignment of the eyes. This can occur if a child’s two eyes have different prescriptions or even if there’s a cataract present. You can usually see the misalignment, but not a cataract, so regular vision screenings are important for kids since early treatment is best. According to the AAO, treatment for lazy eye involves glasses, atropine drops, patching the stronger eye to strengthen the weaker one and vision therapy which includes eye exercises.
CROSSED EYES (STRABISMUS)
When the eyes appear to be misaligned, going in different directions, strabismus may be diagnosed, which is basically an issue with the eye’s muscles. When the eyes are not aligned, says the AAPOS, the brain receives two different messages resulting in double vision. In infancy, strabismus will usually correct itself by 3 months of age, but older than that, a child will need treatment. While treatment is similar to lazy eye, surgery is often needed to tighten or loosen specific muscles to realign the eyes.
The routine well-child visit with your pediatrician reveals a vision issue for your child and you set up an appointment with a pediatric optometrist for prescription eye glasses or contacts. The good news is that kids as young as 7 can successfully wear contacts says Dr. Daxx Dunn of Family Vision Care of CoolSprings
. If you don’t think your child can manage contacts, all kinds of fun eyeglass frames are available for kids today from Disney and Fisher-Price to Nike, Nautica, Ralph Lauren and others. Whether your child is near-sighted (can’t see objects clearly far away) or far-sighted (book pages are blurry), annual vision screenings will help bring issues to your attention so you can best help your child.