Caring for Your Baby: Vision Problems Related to Zika

Illustration of a doctor doing a vision test

Serious eye problems have been found among some babies born to women with evidence of Zika virus infection during pregnancy. Read below to learn more about how Zika infection may affect your baby’s eyes and find out what you can do to get the care your baby needs.

Zika and Vision Problems

Zika infection during pregnancy might damage a baby’s eyes and lead to different types of eye or vision problems. Eye and vision problems can range from mild to severe. All babies born to mothers who were exposed to Zika during pregnancy should receive an eye exam by an ophthalmologist (a doctor who specializes in caring for the eyes) by one month of age.

Some eye problems that have been observed in babies exposed to Zika virus during pregnancy include

  • Microphthalmia (one or both eyes are abnormally small)
  • Eyes that are missing pieces of tissue (may appear as “gaps” in parts of the eye)
  • Cataracts (cloudy lens)
  • Injury to the retina (the part of the eye that senses light)
  • Glaucoma (increased pressure within the eye)

Infants born to mothers with Zika infection during pregnancy may have mild to severe damage to the optic nerve (nerve that sends information from the eye to the brain).

Signs and Symptoms of Vision Problems

Vision problems can mean your baby

  • Does not see objects as clearly as usual
  • Cannot see as wide an area as usual without moving his or her eyes or turning his or her head

A baby who is experiencing problems with his or her eyes or vision might

  • Close or cover one eye
  • Squint the eyes or frown
  • Experience crossing or roaming of one eye
  • Experience watery eyes
  • Have red-rimmed, crusted, or swollen eyelids

If you think your baby may have vision problems, talk to a doctor or healthcare provider about your concerns.

When to Check Your Baby’s Vision

CDC recommends that babies born to mothers with Zika exposure during pregnancy have their eyes checked by an ophthalmologist within 1 month of birth. This doctor will perform a thorough eye exam on your baby and check for problems with the structure of the eye, as well as any problems with the eye that might be a result of problems with the brain.

Treatment and Services for Vision Problems

There is no treatment available that will restore complete vision for babies with severe eye problems. For other conditions, steps that can be taken include

  • Surgery to fix a cataract, or clouding of a baby’s eye lens
  • Glasses to improve a baby’s vision
  • Vision therapy to improve vision skills such as eye movement control

We are still learning about the effects of Zika on a baby’s eyes and what treatments can improve a baby’s vision.   It is important for you to work with an ophthalmologist early to manage your baby’s eye care together.

Care for Your Baby

Babies with vision problems need support as they grow and develop. A team of many different specialists may work together to evaluate and care for your baby. It is important to work with your baby’s doctor or healthcare provider to create a medical homeExternal to ensure your baby is receiving ongoing, coordinated care.

Stay in regular communication with the doctors and keep regular appointments. Make sure your baby is getting the recommended screenings and follow-up care. If you have concerns, be sure to talk with your baby’s doctor or healthcare provider.

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