Shaken Baby Syndrome and Blindness
Many people know that shaking a baby can lead to serious injury or death for the infant. Shaking an infant can lead to brain damage, learning disabilities, seizures and many other serious and potentially life threatening problems. You may not know however that shaking a baby can lead to other complications such as blindness. When eye damage or blindness occurs due to shaken baby syndrome it is irreversible and will stay with the childhood throughout their entire adult life.
What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?
Shaken baby syndrome occurs when a baby is shaken. For shaken baby syndrome to occur the shaking needs to be rather intense or violent. Regular care and playing with a child will not result in shaken baby syndrome. Parents and caregivers of children and infants need to understand that a baby should never be shaken for any reason. Babies have large heads and weak necks. When they are shaken their necks can wobble around and their fragile brains can easily become damaged. Shaken baby syndrome doesn’t just happen to babies. It is most common in small children under the age of 2, but can be seen in children as old as 5.
In some cases shaken baby syndrome instantly results in serious, life threatening complications. The baby can start having seizures, go into shock or experience brain swelling. Other times the results aren’t as dramatic, but they can still cause problems later in life such as learning disabilities, blindness and other problems.
Symptoms of Shaken Baby Syndrome
The severity of shaken baby syndrome can vary dramatically. It all depends on how many times the shaking has occurred, how violent the shaking was and even on the circumstances involving the shaking incident. In severe cases the baby can be unconscious, having seizures or in shock. Death can easily occur from shaken baby syndrome. In less severe cases a child that has been shaken may exhibit some of the following symptoms: vomiting, lack of smiling or talking, trouble focusing the eyes, irritability, difficulty eating or swallowing or an unequal pupil size.
How Does Shaken Baby Syndrome Result in Blindness?
Shaken baby syndrome does not just cause damage to the brain of babies. It can also damage their retinas. The retina is located near back of the eye. It responds to light, helps you to distinguish colors and helps to transmit images to the brain via the optic nerve. When a baby is shaken retinal bleeding or hemorrhaging can occur. In fact retinal bleeding is one way that doctors can determine if a baby has been shaken.
Shaking a baby can also lead to retinal detachment. When this occurs the retina detaches or separates from the other layers of the eye. This can cause fluid to leak into the eye and cloud the vitreous fluid which fills the center of the eye.
This damage to the retina and the accompanying damage to the brain can result in permanent and life long blindness after a baby has been shaken. Color blindness can also occur. The retina is responsible for helping the eyes to see color and so the damage caused by shaking a baby can cause color blindness.
What Can Be Done to Prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome?
New babies can cry a lot so parents need to be educated about what to do when their baby starts to cry. It is important for parents and caregivers to understand why babies cry and what can be done when the crying occurs. This will help to lessen the stress of a crying infant. Education is critical in helping parents and caregivers to understand the dangers of shaking their baby. Death, injury and possible blindness from shaken baby syndrome are all preventable.
Crying babies are often in need of something. One tactic to try if your baby won’t stop crying is to make sure that they aren’t hungry and that their diaper doesn’t need changing. Next check and see if the baby is sick. You can look for signs of fever or for swollen, sore gums. Swaddling the baby, rocking them, talking with them or taking the baby on a car ride can also help to alleviate the crying. You can also leave the baby alone and on their back in the crib and close the door. Be sure to check in on them after several minutes. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are getting frustrated or if your baby won’t stop crying. Asking a friend or family to watch your baby while you take a quick break is a great way to relieve stress and can help prevent shaken baby syndrome and the possibility of blindness caused by shaken baby syndrome.
Shaken baby syndrome is serious and can cause many serious complications and lifelong problems including blindness. If you have a baby make sure that you never shake them and that you get them help you need when you start to feel stressed or overwhelmed. Blindness caused by shaken baby syndrome is completely preventable.
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