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more articles by Schwartz, Peter S , MD  |  author's bio

Screen Children’s Eyes by Three Years Old

Screen Children’s Eyes by Three Years Old

 

By Peter S. Schwartz, MD

 

 

 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children have their eyes screened by the time they are three years old. This screening should be performed by an ophthalmologist, who is a medical doctor that specializes in diagnosing and treating eye and vision problems. These pediatric guidelines include all children, including those who are healthy, with no obvious visual or physical problems.

 

The emphasis on early ophthalmologic screening is very important. The vision center of the brain develops from the time of birth through the sixth or seventh year of life. When a child suffers from poor vision during these critical early years of development, the brain is not stimulated to “learn” to see. Left undiagnosed and uncorrected, impaired vision during these first few years can lead to poor vision that is permanent. Amblyopia, sometimes known as lazy eye, is correctable as a child, but typically cannot be corrected past the age of seven or eight.

 

At how early an age can vision problems be detected?

 

A pediatric ophthalmologist can examine a newborn child and determine whether the child will need glasses or if there is another eye problem present. Even premature babies should be examined while still in the hospital. Certainly when parents or siblings of the baby wear glasses, or have any family history of eye problems, it’s a good idea to have the baby screened sooner rather than later.

 

What are the most common pediatric eye problems?

 

Most kids with vision problems just need glasses, either to correct refractive errors (near or far sightedness or astigmatism) or to address eye muscle disorders.

Another common pediatric eye problem is a wandering, or crossed eye. Known as strabismus, this can occur for many reasons. Poor vision from refractive errors, pediatric cataracts, or problems with the brain controlling the eye muscles are some examples. 

Amblyopia, which we discussed earlier, can be associated with almost any disorder that compromises the vision. It may be associated with wandering eyes, or other obvious signs of eye disease. However, it may be hidden to even an attentive parent or pediatrician. 

It’s also not uncommon for young children to suffer trauma to the eye from accidents; these injuries should be addressed immediately.

 

How are problems like lazy eye and crossed eyes treated?

 

In treating amblyopia or strabismus we are striving to teach the brain to see out of both eyes together and to achieve a satisfactory cosmetic result. Sometimes these conditions can be successfully treated with a combination of glasses, exercises, eye drops, and an eye patch to help the weaker eye work harder. Often, however, surgery is required to achieve goals of treatment. These are same-day surgery procedures performed at Cayuga Medical Center’s Surgicare on the Convenient Care Campus in Ithaca. Kids undergoing this surgery are typically back at school in a couple of days.

 

If there is no family history of vision problems and no obvious vision problem, do I still need to have my child screened?

 

Yes, you should have your child’s vision screened. Amblyopia is not always obvious even to a watchful parent; the signs can be very subtle. Your child’s eyes may be aligning well and there may still be a vision deficit. You might notice that your child is clumsy, and this may well be due to the fact that he or she is simply not be seeing well. Routine eye exams for healthy, normal kids can go a long way to ensuring better vision for the rest of their lives.

 

Dr. Schwartz is board certified in ophthalmology and is fellowship trained in pediatric ophthalmology. He is a member of the medical staff of Cayuga Medical Center and treats both pediatric and adult patients. His practice is located at 2333 Triphammer Road in Ithaca and he can be reached at (607) 266-7600. Dr. Schwartz graduated with distinction from Cornell in an accelerated three-and-a-half-year program and went on to the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, where he also graduated with honors and was inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. Following his ophthalmology residency at Mount Sinai Hospital, Dr. Schwartz went to Children’s Hospital of Michigan for a fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology. He also served on the teaching faculties of two of the country’s premier teaching hospitals, the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary and Mount Sinai Medical Center, where medical residents in specialty training honored him with a number of teaching awards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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