While a newborn cannot distinguish your face in the first few weeks after birth, it’s still a joy watching them open their eyes and take in their new environment.
But what happens when you see your baby has a red eye? We’ll tell you all about subconjunctival hemorrhage in a newborn and what you can do about them.
Whether you’re a first-time parent or have older children, it can still be nerve-wracking when you see that there may be something wrong with your baby. But although subconjunctival hemorrhage sounds serious, there is usually no cause for concern.
You just need to know why your newborn has bloodshot eyes and how long they will last. And when there are no other symptoms present, you can quell your worries and get back to adoring your little one.
Why Your Baby Has Bloodshot Eyes
The white part of our eye is called the sclera. It is covered with bulbar conjunctiva, a thin layer of clear tissue. The conjunctiva has many tiny blood vessels.
Sometimes, these small blood vessels or capillaries break. Blood leaks and collects between the conjunctiva and the sclera.
When this happens to your newborn, you can see your baby’s eye bloodshot in one corner. This is called a subconjunctival hemorrhage.
Because the conjunctiva cannot absorb the leaked blood quickly, it results in red eyes. You can see the blood in the eye, but you cannot wipe it off.
While it can be alarming to see your newborn’s eye this way, it is a common occurrence and happens without causing harm to your baby.
When tiny blood vessels in the eye break, it causes a red patch in the eye that cannot be wiped off. | Image from Shutterstock
What Causes Subconjunctival Hemorrhage in a Newborn
Everyone can have a subconjunctival hemorrhage, and there are several reasons why it happens.
Bloodshot eyes can occur when we:
- cough or sneeze violently
- strain (like when we’re in the toilet)
- have high blood pressure
- take blood thinners
- rub eyes too hard
- have an eye injury or had eye surgery
- have a viral infection
Meanwhile, newborns can have subconjunctival hemorrhage too. In fact, it is a common occurrence. This usually happens because the infant’s body experiences pressure changes during childbirth.
What to Look Out for When Your Baby Has a Bloodshot Eye
The conjunctiva cannot absorb the leaked blood quickly, trapping the blood in the white part of the eye and causing it to have a red patch and seem bloodshot.
The red patch may get bigger in the first 24 to 48 hours. It will fade from red to yellow as the patch disappears.
There should be no pain and no discharge from the eye. Your baby’s vision also does not change.
When your baby is experiencing symptoms other than eye redness, the cause may not be subconjunctival hemorrhage.
Development of Baby Vision: How Your Little One Sees as He Grows
Baby Check-Up: A Quick Guide on What to Ask the Paedia, What to Expect, and What to Watch Out For
Dry Eyes in Kids: What Causes It, and How You Can Prevent It
How to Treat Subconjunctival Hemorrhage
A subconjunctival hemorrhage in a newborn is typically normal and harmless. The body will reabsorb the leaked blood in the eye, and it will disappear on its own
after two or three weeks.
It is possible that the eye may look yellow as the red patch disappears.
Subconjunctival hemorrhage is normally harmless. Observe for other symptoms if your baby shows discomfort. | Image from Shutterstock
Other Causes of Bloodshot Eyes
The telltale sign that your newborn has subconjunctival hemorrhage is a red patch on the eye that cannot be wiped away. If your baby has more symptoms, then it may be caused by other conditions.
Here are other possible reasons why your baby has eye redness:
Corneal trauma or abrasion
This occurs when there is a scratch or superficial injury in the cornea, the clear, protective window at the front of our eye. Your newborn’s cornea can be scratched by a number of things like dust, sand, or a paper’s edge.
Aside from redness, your baby may also experience light sensitivity, pain, and tearing when there is corneal trauma.
Bacteria like staphylococcus, streptococcus,
or Hemophilus can all cause bacterial conjunctivitis
. Aside from eye redness, your baby may also experience tearing and itchiness. In addition, there may also be a thick yellow discharge that may turn crusty.
This condition is caused by a virus and is also called pink eye. It commonly happens along with a sore throat or a cold. Aside from one or both eyes appearing bloodshot, your baby’s eyes may also feel itchy and tear up.
If your newborn has an allergy to smoke, dust, or other types of allergen, she may have allergic conjunctivitis. Its symptoms include eye swelling, watering, and redness, but it rarely causes red eyes in babies.
Inflammation of the eyelids is called blepharitis, caused by bacteria. It also happens when the oil glands of the eyelids are clogged or not functioning properly.
There are a lot of symptoms other than eye redness if your baby has blepharitis. Their eyes may also be watery, their eyelids are itchy, swollen, and sticky. The skin around the eyes can become flaky. Meanwhile, the eyelashes turn crusty in the morning or fall out.
This is a bacterial infection of the eyelids, or the skin surrounding the eyes. It can affect one or both of your baby’s eyes. Aside from redness around the eyes, it can also cause swelling, and the eyes can even swell shut.
There may also be an insect bite, scratch, or cut near the eye. The affected area also feels tender. If your baby has these symptoms, seek medical care immediately.
Bloodshot Eyes in Newborn: When to Call the Doctor
Image from Shutterstock
A subconjunctival hemorrhage in a newborn goes away on its own and does not need medical care. But when your infant has other symptoms, you should observe and talk to your doctor when you feel the need for it.
Call your doctor if your baby:
- has red and swollen eyelids
- has bloodshot eyes and experiences pain
- is blinking and tearing continuously
- often gets subconjunctival hemorrhages
- turns away from light sources
- has a fever and is less than three months old
If you notice any other concerning symptoms such as excessive crying, eye discharge, or sensitivity to light, you should contact your paediatrician. They can help rule out any underlying medical conditions and provide additional guidance on how to care for your baby’s eyes.
In general, you can continue with your normal baby care routine, but avoid rubbing or pressing on the affected eye and use a warm compress if your baby seems uncomfortable.
This article was written by Romy Pena Cruz and republished with permission from theAsianparent Philippines.
Here at theAsianparent Singapore, it’s important for us to give information that is correct, significant, and timely. But this doesn’t serve as an alternative for medical advice or medical treatment. theAsianparent Singapore is not responsible for those that would choose to drink medicines based on information from our website. If you have any doubts, we recommend consulting your doctor for clearer information.