There are several types of eye discharge that an infant may have, and the baby's age should be taken into consideration. Learn about different causes of discharge with help from a pediatrician in this free video on babies and health care.
Hi, I'm Doctor David HIill, and today we're going to be talking about an infant with eye discharge. Which infant? I don't know. You pick one. But this is a baby under age twelve months, who has goop coming out of the eyes. Now, there's a lot of different eye discharges, and it matters how old the baby is. Any baby under three weeks of age who's getting thick yellowish pus coming out of one or both eyes, needs to be seen by a physician. Why is this? Well, there's some pretty scary infections that affect infants at that age. Most frightening are chlamydia and gonorrhea. Now, you may say, I don't have chlamydia or gonorrhea. Well, you probably tested negative, you may not. But a lot of people have these diseases and don't know it. And you can catch that disease at any point up to the time of delivery. So, although you may think you don't have the disease, you still need that baby to get checked out. Gonorrhea can absolutely destroy the eyes in a very short period of time, leading to permanent blindness. Chlamydia is not as destructive, but it causes a systemic infection that may include pneumonia, and needs to be treated with antibiotics, not just in the eye, but taken by mouth or sometimes even by IV, if it's present. So, your baby has thick, nasty yellow drainage and is less than three weeks of age, by all means take him or her to see a doctor to get their eye cultured and see what's going on in there. Now, what if your baby doesn't have thick, yellow nasty discharge, but just has some mucous or water? Well, newborns frequently have very small tear ducts. They get blocked up very easily. What you can do is try to message the tear duct a little bit, and use a warm, moist washcloth to help open the eye and help the baby become more comfortable. You may have to do that repeatedly over the first year of life, as those tear ducts grow large enough to carry the tears successfully down into the nose. Now, rarely when that persists beyond a year of life, babies actually need surgery to open up those tear ducts. It doesn't happen very often, but your baby's doctor might ask an eye doctor to help determine whether that's going to be necessary. Now, what about babies who are greater than three months of age, who are getting eye goop? Still the same basic rules. If the eye goop is thick, yellow nasty pus, the doctor's probably going to want to prescribe an antibiotic for them. But there are some real red flags you want to look for.If your child seems to have pain upon opening the eye, or if light causes pain, that can be an emergency condition of the eye, and needs to be evaluated very quickly. Likewise, if there is redness, or puffiness of the lids themselves, that can suggest a very serious infection of the tissue around the eye, and also needs to be immediately evaluated. So, talking about eye drainage in infants, I'm Doctor David Hill.