This is probably the eye infection you’ll be most familiar with, in your tot and in yourself. Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva – the transparent membrane that covers the white part of the eyeball and the inner surfaces of the eyelids. Infective conjunctivitis, caused by a virus or bacteria, is very common in children. Eyes will appear red and watery and you’ll notice a sticky coating on the eyelashes.
Ken Nischal, consultant ophthalmologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital, advises: “If your child’s eyes are a little bit sticky and red, it’s worth just cleaning them with cooled boiled water and cotton wool for the first day. If, the next morning, they’re stuck down again, then it’s best to head to the GP in case you need to get antibiotics.
You should also go to the doctor if the eyelids are swollen or if the eyes are bright red rather than pink. A baby of two weeks old or under should be taken straight to the doctor if he or she gets sticky eyes.”
A squint is a condition where one eye turns inwards, outwards, upwards or downwards while the other looks forward. Squints are very common, affecting about one in 20 children and usually develop during the first three years.
“The most common squint is when the eye turns in,” says Ken. “The first thing I check is whether the child’s vision is the same in both eyes. If not, and the child has developed a lazy eye (where one eye closes slightly, also known as amblyopia), then this needs to be corrected by using either an eye patch or drops.”
3) Styes and chalazions
A stye develops as a result of an infected eyelash follicle and appears as a redness or pimple at the base of the lash. Whereas a chalazion is a cyst on the eyelid caused by a blocked gland. “Parents often mistake a chalazion for a stye,” says Ken. “But a chalazion needs antibiotics for it to clear up and a stye will usually go on its own if you treat it with a warm compress or pull the lash out.”
Try not to let your child scratch as it will prolong the infection of molluscum contagiosum
“There are two main reason why a child’s eyes might twitch,” explains Ken. “It could be that the eyes are dry and they’re trying to squeeze more tears out or it could be that they have allergic eye disease.” With dry eyes, the inflammation of the lids is treated and the eyes lubricated. Allergic eye disease can also be treated with drops.
5) Eye injuries
Running around can mean lots of injuries, and sadly eyes aren’t exempt. Common toddler complaints include scratching the cornea or getting a foreign body stuck under the eyelid. More serious injuries include something, such as grit, penetrating the eye. If this happens, you’ll notice that the shape of the pupil has changed.
Tots can also do damage to the orbit (fat tissue surrounding the eyeball) of the eye if, for example, a ball hits them hard. In this case, the eye will look sunken or won’t move properly. Go straight to A&E if you’re worried about any injury.