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How to Detect Vision Problems in Your Baby

There is so much to worry about in the first year of your baby's life. What to feed him, how long to let him nap, what it means when he cries, or how to keep him from putting everything in his mouth. One of the last things you may be looking for is how well he sees. However, your doctor is already looking for signs of abnormal eye and vision development at various ages and you should be too.


If your baby was born prematurely or you have a family history of congenital cataracts, eye tumors, or another genetic disease that affects eyesight, an eye specialist should examine your baby in the nursery. If this does not happen, schedule an appointment with an eye doctor as soon as you are home. Premature babies are more likely to have retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), which could lead to vision loss and blindness if left untreated.

6 Months

By the time your baby is 6 months old, he should have his eyes examined by your pediatrician during all his visits. In addition to asking about your family history and whether you think your baby's eyes are developing normally based on your observations, the doctor will perform the following tests to determine if your baby's eyes are focusing properly, if they are straight, and to make sure he does not have an internal eye disease.

  1. Penlight Exam—The doctor will shine a light on the eyelids and eyeballs of your baby. He will look to see if the pupils are the same size, whether the lids are drooping, if there is any sign of infection, if the eye appears normal, and if there are any tearing or allergy problems.
  2. Eye Movement Check—Your pediatrician will test to see how well your baby follows an object as he moves it from side to side and up and down. He is looking to see if the eyes move together in the right direction.
  3. Light Reaction Test—In a darkened room, your doctor will use an ophthalmoscope or retinoscope to look for a red reflex in the eyes. An abnormal response could be the result of cataracts or a tumor.

Your pediatrician can treat any eye infections that may arise. However, if there are additional concerns about your baby's vision, your pediatrician will refer you to an eye specialist.

12 Months

By this time, your baby's eyes and vision are developing rapidly and it is a critical time to detect eye conditions and vision problems. If you notice any of the following signs in your baby, immediately schedule an eye appointment with a doctor such as Denbak Douglas Dr

  • Eyes are misaligned and do not move together
  • Wiggling or jumping eye movements after 3-months old
  • Eye injury
  • Eyes appear white in photographs
  • Extreme sensitivity to light

Even if your baby's eyes appear to be developing normally, your one-year-old baby should have his first eye exam. At the exam, the eye doctor will test for your baby's ability to properly move his eyes, look for any eye health problems, and determine whether your baby has nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism.

A baby's vision develops over time and, as a parent, it is important to monitor that development so that any early problems can be detected. Not being able to see well can lead to delays in development. Give your baby the best start you can by looking out for his eyes.