A child’s first 10 years of life is the most crucial time in the development of his or her visual system. During this time, the brain learns to process the images coming from the eyes while using both eyes as a coordinated team. Due to the rapid vision development taking place during childhood, it is very important to detect and treat any vision problems as early as possible. If left untreated, childhood vision impediments can lead to developmental problems, learning disabilities and a lifetime of poor vision.
Our dedicated eye doctors provide effective treatment for such common vision problems as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. In addition, they also specialize in early detection and treatment of such potentially serious vision impediments as amblyopia, congenital cataracts, glaucoma and pterygium. Our skilled doctors can also help if your child suffers from frequent pink eye and/or blocked tear ducts. If you suspect that your child might have a vision problem, schedule a consultation with one of our experienced doctors who can perform a detailed evaluation and prescribe appropriate treatment.
Children’s Eye Exams: When and How Often?
Perhaps the most important step parents can take to help their children develop good vision is to ensure that they receive regular eye exams. Making eye exams with your family eye doctor a regular part of your child’s healthcare can detect problems early and correct them while the child’s vision system is still flexible. Regrettably, as many as 25 percent of children in grades K-6 have vision deficiencies, many of which go undiagnosed.
Your child should undergo a complete eye checkup at six months of age, at age three and again at the start of school. After that, the eye exam should be repeated every two years. However, these are general guidelines and you should seek help if you see any signs of vision problems, such as if your baby is unable to follow bright moving objects by the age of three months.
Amblyopia is a condition of reduced vision in one eye. Most often, amblyopia develops before the age of six as a result of untreated strabismus (commonly known as “cross-eye,” “lazy eye,” or “wandering eye”). It is very important to diagnose and correct strabismus early to avoid the development of amblyopia.
If a child develops amblyopia, this condition can worsen and lead to permanent vision loss in the amblyopia-affected eye. Vision loss happens because the child’s brain learns to ignore the blurred images coming from the impaired eye. However, vision therapy such as special glasses, patching one eye, Atropine eye drops and/or surgery can be very effective in reversing or reducing your child’s strabismus and/or amblyopia.
While we usually think of cataracts (the clouding of the eye’s lens) as a condition affecting older people, some babies are born with this vision impediment (referred to as congenital cataracts). It is estimated that 0.4 percent of all newborns suffer from congenital cataracts. It is important to evaluate and treat this condition as early as possible to ensure normal development of an infant’s vision system.
Depending on the extent of the cataract, surgery might be required to remove the clouded lens. After this procedure, our surgeons correct the affected eye with a surgically implanted lens, contact lens or eyeglasses. Many experts agree that the best time for cataract surgery is between six weeks and three months following the birth of the baby, as early intervention will allow him or her to develop normal vision function. If you notice that one or both of your baby’s lenses are cloudy, schedule a consultation with one of our experienced doctors to evaluate your child for congenital cataracts.
Similarly to cataracts, glaucoma is also usually thought of as a condition affecting only seniors. However, some babies are born with this condition, and some children develop it as a result of an eye injury or untreated eye disorder. The most obvious sign of glaucoma is a cloudy appearance of the cornea (the normally clear outer part of the eye). In addition, the affected eye might become larger than the other, and the child might experience light sensitivity, increased tearing and excessive blinking.
It is crucial to diagnose and treat glaucoma early as this condition can lead to permanent vision loss, which occurs because of excessive fluid and the resulting pressure buildup in the affected eye. The pressure might cause severe damage to the optic nerve, rendering it incapable of processing visual information. Depending on the extent of glaucoma, our doctors might prescribe medication to lower the pressure or recommend glaucoma surgery. While glaucoma is a serious condition, prompt diagnosis and treatment is very effective in preserving the child’s vision and promoting normal vision development.
Pterygium is a condition that can affect babies, children, and adults who live in warm climates and are frequently exposed to sun. Children who have pterygium develop a wing-like growth spreading over the cornea (the normally clear front part of the eye). Occurrence of pterygium is rare for babies or children. Usually, the growth is harmless and does not require treatment. However, a larger pterygium growth might cause symptoms such as redness, burning and itching. In rare, severe cases of pterygium can cause blurred vision or vision loss. If you notice any growth in your child’s eye, schedule a consultation with one of our skilled doctors to determine if treatment such as surgery might be necessary.
Pink Eye and Blocked Tear Ducts
Pink eye and blocked tear ducts are two common childhood eye conditions that are sometimes confused because of their similar symptoms. In both cases, the child’s eyes produce a lot of tears and sometimes yellow or green discharge. The white parts of the eyes and the area around them might also appear red, and the child might experience uncomfortable itching.
While blocked tear ducts most often improve on their own, pink eye usually requires special treatment. You should consult with one of our experienced eye doctors who will determine the cause of pink eye (such as bacterial or viral infection) and prescribe the most appropriate treatment. In some cases of blocked tear ducts, our doctors will perform a special procedure to clear the blocked passages.
Since childhood is the most important time for proper vision development, it is crucial to ensure that your child receives quality eye care. Please visit our contact page to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced doctors who can perform a thorough eye exam, diagnose any vision problems and provide prompt, effective treatment.
Strabismus is the misalignment of eye muscles and is also known as “cross eye,” “wall eye” and “wandering eye.” If your child has strabismus, his or her eye muscles do not work together properly to allow the eyes to look in the same direction to focus on a single object. Early diagnosis and treatment are very important because untreated strabismus often leads to amblyopia, a serious condition that can leave the child blind in the affected eye. Depending on the extent of your child’s strabismus, our doctors will prescribe a combination of treatments that might include glasses and/or contact lenses, patching and eye exercises, medication and surgery. Please visit our strabismus page to learn more about this condition.
For more information regarding pediatric ophthalmology, please contact Dr. Paul Taupeka.