Pediatric Ophthalmology at Eye Health Partners
A child’s first 10 years of life are the most crucial for 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 skilled pediatric eye doctors specialize in early detection and treatment of potentially serious vision impediments as well as common vision problems like nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.
When and How Often Should My Child Have an Eye Exam?
Perhaps the most important step parents can take to help their children develop good vision is to ensure that they receive regular eye exams. Your child should undergo a complete eye checkup at 6 months of age, at age 3 and again at the start of school. After that, the eye exam should be repeated every two years.
Regrettably, as many as 25% of children in grades K-6 have vision deficiencies, many of which go undiagnosed. Making eye exams with your family eye doctor a regular part of your child’s healthcare can help you detect problems early and correct them while the child’s vision system is still flexible.
Strabismus is the misalignment of eye muscles and is also known as “cross eye,” “wall eye” and “wandering eye.” If your child has strabismus, then his/her eye muscles do not work together properly and will struggle to allow the eyes to look in the same direction and 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.
Amblyopia is a condition of reduced vision in one eye that most often develops before the age of 6 as a result of untreated strabismus. 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 due to the child’s brain learning 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 associate cataracts (the clouding of the eye’s lens) with older people, it can also affect younger people — even babies. When babies are born with this vision impediment it is referred to as congenital cataracts. It is estimated that 0.4% 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 may be required to remove the clouded lens. Our pediatric surgeons correct the affected eye during or immediately following congenital cataract surgery using an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) such as ReStor or Toric, contact lens or eyeglasses. Many experts agree that the best time for cataract surgery is between 6 weeks and 3 months following the birth of the baby, as early intervention will allow him or her to develop normal vision function.
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. 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, please contact one of our Alabama or Tennessee offices today.