The importance of pediatric eye care cannot be overstated. While most parents and guardians remain vigilant when it comes to child healthcare, taking a comprehensive approach to vision care is often overlooked. Pediatric eye care is necessary for infants as young as six months old. Of course, these children are often too young to inform you if something is wrong–let alone explain their symptoms–so staying on top of this care is your responsibility. There are many eye conditions and situations that can easily be avoided, so long as you make sure your child regularly visits the ophthalmologist.
An undiagnosed visual condition can cause a child’s vision to worsen and his or her overall development to be stunted. What’s more, an undiagnosed condition can lead to behavioral misdiagnoses that can have a dangerous ripple effect on the rest of the child’s life. In order to avoid these unnecessary heartaches (and headaches) down the line, be sure to bring your child to a reputable pediatric ophthalmologist to have his or her vision checked once your child is of age.
Your child’s ocular health can affect the myriad physical and mental changes your child will face over his or her lifetime. It’s essential that you bring your child to a pediatric ophthalmologist regularly. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, equal input from both eyes is necessary to the healthy development of a brain’s visual centers, and “If a growing child’s eye does not provide a clear, focused image to the developing brain, irreversible loss of vision in one or both eyes may result.” All reputable ophthalmology institutes agree: early visual assessments are imperative. A child’s ability to develop and learn is closely interconnected with the ability to see and comprehend, since infants learn through their senses.
Taking the initiative to visit a pediatric vision specialist with your child is especially important because children are often too young to voice their concerns, or even to understand that something is wrong. According to the American Public Health Association, “the majority of eye and vision conditions in infancy and preschool ages are not obvious on gross examination and go undetected until…around age 5 years.” A common misunderstanding among parents and caretakers is that vision screenings from school nurses and general practitioners are sufficient to diagnosis any visual issues. This is hardly the case. According to published studies, “40 to 67 percent of children who fail a vision screening do not receive the recommended follow-up care by an eye doctor.” Poor communication between those who hold the school screenings and parents compounds this issue. The same studies found that “two months later, 50 percent of parents were unaware their child had failed a vision screening.” While school screenings can be useful, it is significant to keep in mind that they are not a replacement for a comprehensive eye exam by a pediatric specialist.
There is significant danger in allowing these conditions to go untreated. If there is a condition that has not yet been diagnosed (or has been diagnosed and not treated), the visual ailment can worsen as the child’s eyes strain and his or her neural connections deteriorate. Additionally, these vision problems can be misdiagnosed as a learning or behavioral disorder, since visual disorders can cause a student to struggle and negatively affect his or her schoolwork. If your child’s work shows signs of diminished quality, he or she may be struggling because of pain and discomfort when attempting to focus. These symptoms include migraines, eye soreness, and dizziness. In addition to the negative social and intellectual impact of learning difficulties, this struggle is often misdiagnosed, leading to dangerous diagnoses and treatments. According to the American Optometric Association: “undetected and untreated vision problems can elicit some of the very same signs and symptoms commonly attributed to ADHD. Due to these similarities, some children may be mislabeled as having ADHD when, in fact, they have an undetected vision problem.” If your child is misdiagnosed with a condition–when he or she may need corrective surgery or, simply, a new pair of eyeglasses–he or she may endure treatment that can have a severely negative impact on developmental and physical health. Similarly concerning is research that shows a child living with an untreated visual condition has an increased chance of displaying behavioral issues, being developmentally stunted, and is more prone to be bullied.
Common ocular conditions that affect young children are strabismus (misaligned eyes), amblyopia (a wandering or “lazy” eye), and refractive errors such as myopia and hyperopia (nearsightedness and farsightedness) and astigmatism. Seeking a professional assessment will ensure that your child is free of any of these conditions, and will often take no more than two hours to complete.
Professionals recommend that you take your infant to see an ophthalmologist at around six months of age for a thorough eye examination, and then return at age three and at age five. From birth to age five is when a child is most rapidly developing, and this is especially true of vision. You want to be sure that your child’s development is on track before entering school. An undiagnosed condition could, after all, diminish his or her ability to actively participate. For children who have been diagnosed with a visual disability or condition, check-ups should occur more often, as you will want to be sure their prescription and treatment is still up-to-date.
While it is important to play visual games and do activities with your child in order to stimulate their visual development during these crucial years, a routine visit to your pediatric ophthalmologist is necessary to ensure your child’s visual health.
Eye Consultants of Atlanta provides the most up-to-date ophthalmic care for your young ones. Call us at one of the above numbers if you need a pediatric ophthalmologist in the Atlanta area. Please reference our pediatric educational material on this website for brief descriptions of common eye issues, and more in-depth analysis is available here: AAPOS.org