Why we eye check during a new born infant physical examination (NIPE)

The main condition that is being screened for is cataract (a clouding of the transparent lens inside the eye). The examiner will also note the appearance and movement of the eyes. These checks are not a test of how well your baby can see.

Some abnormalities, particularly congenital cataract, are treatable but require early detection, rapid referral, and treatment to prevent lifelong visual impairment. About two to three in 10,000 (about 200 per year in England) babies have problems with their eyes after birth that need treatment. In over 50 per cent of these, both eyes will be affected. 

Some of these babies will have a family history of cataract. Cataract is the most common treatable cause of childhood blindness in the UK and worldwide. 

What happens during the eye examination? 

When your baby’s eyes are open, a small light will be shined into each eye to check for red eye reflexes. 

What happens if your child had positive screen (abnormal red reflex)? 

Babies with abnormal red reflex, other eye abnormalities or risk factors identified at the new born or infant screening examination will be referred to an eye specialist within two weeks.