Some babies may be born with certain eye problems, which are known as congenital. If there is something which affects baby’s eyes and provokes an eye condition after birth, that problem is known as acquired eye problem. Developmental problems caused by genetic conditions or damage to the baby (due to infection or the use of drugs) while he or she was still in mom’s womb are common causes of congenital eye problems in newborns.
Depending on the part of the eye that is confirmed to have some problem, eye diseases in babies may affect the eyelids, the globe, cornea, iris or pupil of the eye, as well as any other part of the eye, such as the lens, vitreous, retina, choroid, etc.
Eyelid and Globe Problems in Newborn Babies
Eyelid coloboma is a medical condition associated with certain craniofacial syndromes and besides congenital ptosis (caused by the 3rd nerve palsy and Horner’s syndrome) represents a possible eyelid problem in newborns.
Nanophthalmos and microphthalmos are globe issues, characterized by small eyes with or without normal function. Additionally, babies may have other congenital globe problems, such as anophthalmos, when the optic vesicle fail to develop, coloboma (failure of complete closure of the choroid, iris or retina) and also congenital cystic eye (the globe does not develop at all).
Cornea, Iris and Pupil Congenital Problems
The most likely corneal problem in newborns is corneal opacity, which can be either just partial or complete. Among many causes of this problem there are congenital glaucoma, interstitial keratitis, intrauterine inflammation, megalocornea, forceps damage during birth, persistent attachment of the lens and abnormalities of endothelial development.
Corectopia (where pupils are not positioned properly), polycoria (the existence of 2 or more pupils in the eye), iris coloboma and aniridia (absence of the iris) are congenital conditions of the iris in newborn babies. Albinism is yet another possible congenital eye defect in babies, associated with impaired vision and involuntary movement of the eyeball (also known as nystagmus).
Congenital cataract can be either inherited or caused by mother’s infection with rubella. Very young children, younger than 4 weeks, may develop glaucoma after surgical removal of the cataract or vitreous bleeding, so these babies must be very carefully monitored after the surgical procedure.
Other Congenital Eye Problems in Newborns
Babies may be born with several more eye problems, including some lens defects typical for Marfan’s syndrome, Axenfeld-Rieger’s anomaly and vitreous problems like white pupil (leukocoria) or the development of Bergmeister’s papilla or Mittendorf’s dots (the remains of the hyaloid artery on the optic disc or the lens of the eye). Furthermore, newborns may experience retinal and choroid problems, some extra-ocular defects such as craniofacial abnormalities, obstruction of nasolacrimal duct, dermoids or just poor vision with no apparent cause.