Pediatric ophthalmology is concerned with eye diseases and vision care in children. Good vision is essential for proper physical development and educational progress in children. A child needs equal input from both eyes in order to properly develop the visual centers in the brain. If a growing child’s eye does not provide a clear and focused image to the developing brain, permanent loss of vision may result.
Infants should be screened by a primary care physician shortly after birth and at routine intervals. Any child with an abnormal vision test result should have a comprehensive evaluation by an ophthalmologist. This exam includes assessment of visual acuity, need for glasses, eye alignment, color vision, eye movement and tracking, depth perception, visual field, and assessment of all ocular structures.
Common Pediatric Eye Problems
- Amblyopia – reduced vision in an eye that results from misalignment of the eyes, a need for glasses, or disruption of light passing through the eye. This generally responds well to treatment if recognized during preschool years. However, after 9 to 10 years of age it is much more difficult to treat and may result in permanent vision loss.
- Strabismus – misalignment of the eyes. An eye may be turned inward (esotropia), outward (exotropia), upward (hypertropia), or downward (hypotropia). The misalignment may be constant or intermittent. Treatment may include eyeglasses, prisms, surgery, Botox injections, or eye-patching therapy.
- Farsightedness – distant objects are clear, near objects are blurred.
- Nearsightedness – near objects are clear, distant objects are blurred.
- Astigmatism – both distant and near objects appear blurred, resulting from the uneven curvature of the eye.
- Excessive tearing – usually due to blockage of the tear drainage system. Treatment includes tear sac massage and eye drops. Surgical probing of the drainage system may be required if tearing persists.
- Double vision – this can result from many conditions and should be evaluated at the time of onset. Treatment for double vision can include prism glasses, strabismus surgery, and Botox injections.
- Drooping eyelid – also called ptosis, this is caused by weakness in the muscle that elevates the eyelid. This may create significant astigmatism and, if untreated, can result in permanent loss of vision. If the ptosis is significant, surgical correction may be necessary.
Most of these conditions can be treated successfully if caught early.