A subconjunctival hemorrhage is often what causes bloodshot eyes in newborns. This could occur when pressure on the baby during birth causes the tiny vessels just below the surface of the eye to rupture, creating red streaks in the whites of the eyes.
In most cases, these ruptures will heal on their own after a couple of weeks with no intervention required. However, if you do not see improvement in the condition after this time, it could be cause for concern.
Consistently bloodshot eyes from subconjunctival hemorrhage could be a sign of a more significant birth injury, such as one that could lead to cerebral palsy or facial paralysis. Always alert your doctor if your newborn is experiencing bloodshot eyes, especially if the problem does not clear up as expected after a couple of weeks.
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Extra Pressure on the Baby’s Head During Birth
The process of going through a vaginal birth can be stressful on a newborn. Since a baby’s head makes up a significant portion of its body, much of the pressure gets applied to this area. Should the baby’s head be larger than average and get lodged in the birth canal for too long, the delivery could become difficult.
The pressure from prolonged time in the birth canal could cause the blood vessels behind the eyes to rupture, resulting in subconjunctival hemorrhage and bloodshot eyes. When a delivery becomes difficult, a doctor may decide to order a C-section or make use of birthing tools to limit further complications.
Improper Use of Birthing Tools Can Cause Pressure on the Eyes
During a difficult birth, the doctor may choose to make use of forceps to help the baby through the birth canal. Some doctors use a vacuum extractor, which involves a vacuum pump and a cap that affixes to the head, attempting to guide the baby’s head.
Should the doctor use too much pressure with these tools on the baby’s head, they could cause the blood vessels around the eye to rupture, causing them to become bloodshot.
Improper use of these tools also can lead to skull fractures and other health issues for a baby. This is one reason why doctors use tools like this far less often than in the past. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), doctors used a birthing tool in 9.01% of vaginal births in 1990. By 2015, that number had dropped to 3.14%.
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Eye Issues for Premature Babies
Babies born before 37 weeks are considered premature. The CDC reports that in 2018, about 10% of babies were born prematurely in the United States.
Since the blood vessels in the eyes are among the last to form in a baby, babies born prematurely have the risk of eye problems, some of which can show up as bloodshot eyes.
For example, if the baby has higher than average blood pressure after being born prematurely, the immature blood vessels in the eyes could rupture, leading to the formation of bloodshot eyes. As long as doctors are able to control the baby’s blood pressure, the bloodshot eyes should alleviate on their own.
Retinopathy of Prematurity in Newborns
Another potential eye problem for premature babies is called retinopathy of prematurity, or ROP. Babies that are born extremely prematurely—such as at 25 weeks or less—have the greatest chance of developing ROP.
ROP affects the retina of the eye. Since the blood vessels in the retina are the last to develop, they are often underdeveloped in premature babies. As a result, these vessels may develop abnormally in a premature baby, causing ROP.
Severe ROP can lead to blindness. Other times, it can cause significantly reduced vision. Occasionally, the abnormal blood vessels could rupture, leading to bleeding that could show up as bloodshot eyes.
Guarding Your Infant Against Medical Malpractice
Once you know what causes bloodshot eyes in newborns, you can begin the process of determining the cause of this symptom in your baby. Pressure on the baby’s head during the delivery could result in bloodshot eyes.
If your baby experienced extra pressure during birth because of a mistake the doctor made, you could have the right to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit against the liable party. Through this lawsuit, you can attempt to recover compensation for any medical treatment your baby requires, as well as for any pain, suffering, and reduction in quality of life.
At the Birth Injury Lawyers Group, we are ready to protect the rights of our clients to seek damages related to a birth injury and the long term effects of it. Contact us today at (800) 222-9529 for a free consultation.