Who are Paediatric Ophthalmologists?
A Paediatric Ophthalmologist is a qualified ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) specialising in children’s eye care. Not all ophthalmologists are comfortable in dealing with children’s eye issues.
Paediatric ophthalmologists can assess and treat most eye problems in children. They perform the following assessment concerning children’s eye care:
- Vision Assessment – to check a child’s visual acuity, at any age from birth, infants and older children. This includes assessing vision in children who are delayed and non-verbal.
- Determining refractive error – to check the child’s focusing ability and accurately prescribe glasses if necessary. This can be for a child of any age.
- Motility Examination – to check the eye alignment and eye movements in order to diagnose and manage strabismus (squint).
- Bio microscopy and dilated fundus examination – to check the front and back of the eye to assess for problems such as cataract, retina or optic nerve disease and genetic abnormalities.
An experienced paediatric ophthalmologist also performs surgical procedures to treat problems such as blocked tear ducts, paediatric cataract extraction, and eye muscle surgery for strabismus.
Signs and Symptoms That May Indicate An Eye Problem in A Child
- Itching or dryness causing frequent eye rubbing or blinking
- Tilting head to one side
- Holding objects close to the eyes
- Difficulty reading
- Frequent headaches
- Extreme sensitivity to light
- Excessive tearing
- Noticeable eye turn (strabismus)
What are some common Paediatric Eye Problems that need a specialist assessment?
Let’s help you understand some paediatric eye problems that may affect your child.
- Myopia – near-sightedness. The child can see clearly at near, but experiences blurred vision while looking at distant objects, such as the whiteboard at school.
- Hyperopia – far-sightedness. The child can see distant objects but has difficulty looking at things up close.
- Astigmatism – a focusing issue that can cause blurred vision at all distances.
- Amblyopia – “lazy eye”. The child has poor vision in one eye. Appropriate treatment can successfully treat this condition if detected early.
- Strabismus – misalignment of two eyes that causes the child to use only one eye at a time, and can lead to amblyopia.
- Paediatric Cataract: clouding or opacity of the lens from birth or during childhood.
- Excessive tearing: can be caused by a variety of conditions including allergy, blocked tear ducts and even glaucoma.
- Cortical visual impairment: abnormality in visual processing and visual function due to a problem in the brain’s visual centre (not the eyes).
- Paediatric glaucoma: Increased pressure in the eye. It is an uncommon condition but can cause permanent vision loss.
Untreated Paediatric Eye Problems
Various paediatric eye problems such as amblyopia react well to treatment if identified and treated early. Still, such paediatric eye problems become challenging to treat if diagnosed at a later stage and may also cause your children to suffer some degree of permanent vision loss.
Diagnosis of Paediatric Eye Problems
A paediatric ophthalmologist can perform a thorough examination of your children’s eyes to diagnose and treat specific paediatric eye problems. They can also discuss with you the signs and symptoms to watch out for.
Treatment of Paediatric Eye Problems
The treatment for paediatric eye problems depends on the cause or underlying condition. Usually, the first line of therapy includes conventional or non-surgical treatments. Eye surgery by an experienced paediatric ophthalmologist such as Dr Parth Shah may also be recommended.
Nonsurgical Treatments for Paediatric Eye Problems
The nonsurgical therapies for paediatric eye problems include:
- Eye Drops
- Eye Patch
- Medications taken by mouth
- Glasses or contact lenses
Surgical Treatments for Paediatric Eye Problems
Some of the paediatric eye problems demand common surgical treatments such as:
- Strabismus (eye muscle) surgery to treat an eye misalignment
- Blocked Tear Duct Surgery
- Cataract Removal
- Eyelid cyst excision
- Droopy eyelid surgery
Prevention of Paediatric Eye Problems
Along with the children’s overall development, there are also milestones for children’s visual development:
- A baby’s two eyes should work together while focusing on an object from about three months old.
- A baby’s depth perception develops from about six months.
- A child should approach and grip an object with their thumb and forefinger by twelve months.
Marking these and some other developmental milestones can benefit parents if their child may have a underlying vision problem. It is also important to note that many children with vision problems may not display any obvious eye abnormality and may not complain of having a difficulty with their vision.
Children should be taught to take care of their eyes, including avoid eye rubbing and wearing appropriate eye protection for activities such as contact sports. Adult supervision is also a necessity in these situations.
Some preventive measures are:
- Preventing exposure to excessive UV light
- Avoiding extreme close-up work
- Controlling myopia early
Understanding the necessity of the early diagnosis and treatment of paediatric eye disease is essential to protect your child’s vision. Dr Parth Shah, an experienced paediatric ophthalmologist in Canberra, has specialised expertise in managing common and complex paediatric eye problems using an evidence-based approach.