What You Need to Know About Caring for Your Child’s Eyes
When we took my oldest son, Xander, to his three-year-old check up appointment, our primary care physician noted some concerns with his corneal reflex and referred him to an ophthalmologist. We found a pediatric ophthalmologist within our local children's hospital network, because when it comes to medical care children are not just big adults. Children require specialized care, since they are not always patient and cooperative during an eye examination. Also, a pediatric ophthalmologist recognizes that they need to use special tools and assessment protocols to get the most accurate information from a child.
When the ophthalmologist prompted him to identify various objects in different quadrants on a chart on the wall, Xander struggled with the quadrants on the right-hand side.
On the day of Xander’s eye examination, I felt nervous but confident in the doctor we chose. As soon as the ophthalmologist started the examination, my nerves disappeared. The doctor’s calm and patient bedside manner allowed me to give my son the emotional support he needed. Although Xander was hesitant about the large examination chair and general appearance of the room, he remained calm and cooperative throughout the evaluation.
About 10 to 15 minutes into the assessment, it was clear to me that Xander was having difficulty with his vision in his right eye. When the ophthalmologist prompted him to identify various objects in different quadrants on a chart on the wall, Xander struggled with the quadrants on the right-hand side. As she was walking him through the various tasks, I felt my heart sink to the bottom of my stomach and a lump grow in my throat. I remember the thoughts in my head repeating over and over again, “There is something wrong with my baby’s vision.”
Once the doctor was finished with her assessment, she explained to me that Xander’s left eye had near perfect vision, but his right eye was not processing any vision information and his eye muscles are weak, which is known as amblyopia or “lazy eye”. Amblyopia occurs when the nerve pathway from one eye to the brain does not develop during childhood. This occurs because the abnormal eye sends a blurred image or the wrong image to the brain. If treated before the age of five, many children will recover almost normal vision.
Xander was prescribed glasses in order to help his right eye begin to start processing vision. As I drove home from Xander’s first eye appointment, I felt a bit of sadness for my baby. These feelings of sadness were later replaced with hopefulness and gratitude as the weeks passed. Gratitude that our primary care doctor referred us so early. Gratitude for an ophthalmologist who took the time to identify the problem. Hopefulness for Xander’s future with improved vision, so he can enjoy reading, playing with his toys and participating in sports without vision difficulties.
If your pediatrician advises you that your child should have their eyes checked, a pediatric ophthalmologist has the widest range of assessment tools, comprehensive knowledge in pediatric care, and the greatest knowledge in working with children and treatment of eye disorders. For more information on pediatric eye care visit Think About Your Eyes.
At what age did your child have their first eye exam? Does our story encourage you to consider starting at an earlier age?