The eye health of children is the focus of the subspecialty of ophthalmology referred to as pediatric ophthalmology. Pediatric ophthalmologists are doctors who specialize in eye conditions that affect children. Children and teenagers under the age of 18 may be referred to this department by their opticians, family physicians, or other pediatricians. (1)
Definition and Overview
Pediatric ophthalmology detects and manages vision problems in children. Timely intervention is essential for optimal visual development. A pediatric ophthalmologist specializes in identifying and treating eye abnormalities in children.
Optometrists and ophthalmologists may perform eye exams, test visual acuity, and prescribe corrective lenses. Ophthalmologists can also diagnose and treat eye diseases and perform surgery. Pediatric ophthalmologists provide age-appropriate care using specialized equipment and tests. It helps children feel comfortable and encourages collaboration during examinations. (2)
Pediatric eye specialists diagnose, treat and manage all types of eye problems in children. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Pediatric ophthalmology (eye) diseases and treatment procedures include:
- Left Untreated and Poor Eyesight
Vision blur is a result of refractive defects. Children may have trouble seeing things up close, far away, or both. They may lose their sight and develop a "lazy eye" if they are unable to see clearly for an extended period of time. If left untreated, low vision begins in one eye and worsens over time. Early detection is crucial since early treatment has a higher chance of success. Generally, eye patches or spectacles are used as treatments.
- Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)
Amblyopia is a condition in which one eye's vision does not develop normally during childhood. Lazy eye is another name for this condition. If issues like refractive defects, strabismus (misaligned eyes), droopy eyelids, or cataracts are not corrected, a child may develop amblyopia.
- Strabismus (Crossed Eyes)
About 4 percent (4 out of 100) of children have strabismus (misaligned or squinting eyes). While one eye looks straight ahead, the other can turn in, out, up, or down. Treatment for strabismus must start immediately. A common indication of misaligned eyes is an off-center light reflection during an eye test. In order to avoid double vision, the brain may overlook the squint eye if strabismus treatment is not received.
- Ptosis (Droopy Eyelid)
A droopy eyelid known as ptosis may damage eyesight. Surgery may be required to lift the child's eyelid if it is too low. The raised eyelid protects that eye's vision.
- Cloudy Eyes
A child with cataracts may have blurred vision. The eye's normally clear lens starts to grow clouded at this point. Cataracts commonly affect older people, although some children are born with them or develop them as a result of an injury. The majority of children require surgery to remove the cataract and restore their vision. Rarely, retinoblastoma, a cancer of the retina or the back wall of the eye, can be detected by a clouded eye.
- Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)
Conjunctivitis is an irritation of the eye's white part brought on by an infection or an allergy. Pinkeye can be caused by viruses or bacteria, both of which are very contagious, or by allergies, which are not contagious.
Children may have red, itchy, watery, or discharged eyes. Within a week, the pink eye typically fades away on its own. Although parents can keep the symptoms under control, a doctor may occasionally recommend antibiotic eye drops.
- Stye and Chalazion
A stye refers to an inflamed, tender protrusion that shows up around the eyelid with redness. This condition's origin can be linked to a bacterial infection. Warm compresses are typically used to treat this ailment, while in some circumstances an antibiotic may also be included.
Contrarily, a chalazion is a swelling nodule that forms on the eyelid as a result of an obstruction in the oil gland. It is not frequently connected to a bacterial infection, unlike a stye. Warm compresses that are simple to apply at home are typically used as part of standard chalazion treatment.
- Blocked Tear Duct
Two out of every ten newborns (2 out of 10) have a blocked tear duct. When tears do not flow as they should, the eye becomes wet, irritating, or inflamed. To help open the tear duct, pediatric ophthalmologists might demonstrate a specific massaging technique. After a few months, if the massage is still ineffective, the ophthalmologist may employ a tool to pry open the canal. (3)
If a child is experiencing the following symptoms, he or she may need pediatric eye treatments.
- Blurred vision or double vision
- Crossed eyes
- Eyes turn out or in and do not focus
- Redness in the eyes
- Swelling of the eyes
- Eyes are sensitive to light
- Eyes appear to bulge
- Excessive tearing
- Drainage from the eyes
- Rubbing eyes excessively
- Difficulty reading
- "Jiggly" or dancing eyes
- Abnormal-sized eyes (too large or too small) (4)
Risks and Side Effects
Drugs and eye drops used in non-surgical treatments do not have great risks in children. However, in rare cases,
- signs of an allergic reaction,
- change in eyesight,
- eye pain,
- severe eye irritation may occur. (5)
In surgical treatments,
- double vision,
- loss of vision,
- anesthesia-related problems may be encountered. (6)
Post-Procedure and Follow-up
After treatments, especially after strabismus surgery, the eye(s) may be slightly uncomfortable, but usually not painful. If discomfort or pain is experienced, pain relievers and relievers are recommended.
Doctors may prescribe certain medications in the form of eye drops or ointments after treatment to help protect against infection and inflammation. For procedures, the doctor will schedule a follow-up appointment, but in some cases, it may not be necessary.
Children may be tired and somewhat clumsy for 24 hours after surgery, so activities that can cause falls, such as cycling, should not be allowed. With the doctor's approval, the child can return to normal life when the recovery progresses successfully.
As a result of pediatric ophthalmology treatments, a healthy eye structure, vision, and good appearance are achieved by applying the eye treatments that the child needs.
1-Cambridge University Hospitals. Paediatric Ophthalmology Service. (https://www.cuh.nhs.uk/our-services/childrens-services-paediatrics/paediatric-ophthalmology-service/)
2- WebMD. What Is a Pediatric Ophthalmologist? (https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-pediatric-ophthalmologist)
3- American Academy of Ophthalmology. Childhood Eye Diseases and Conditions. (https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/common-childhood-diseases-conditions)
4- The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Signs and Symptoms of Potential Eye Problems. (https://www.chop.edu/conditions-diseases/signs-and-symptoms-potential-eye-problems)
5- WebMD. Eye Drops Regular. (https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-20720/eye-drops-regular/details)
6- ABC Eyes Pediatric Ophthalmology. What are the Potential Complications? (https://www.pediatricophthalmologypa.com/potential-complications/)