It is a general perception that eye ailments affect adults only, but various problems are quite common among kids. A majority of problems can be treated easily, if diagnosed early. However, a few may need surgical intervention. People think that an expert Ophthalmologist who can treat adults with high proficiency can treat kids as well, but it is not the case. As diagnosis and treatment of eye problems among kids are quite complicated to treat, a separate wing of ophthalmology is dedicated to it. They are specialist doctors who look at the complexities of tiny eyes and treat them to restore normal vision.
What is a pediatric ophthalmology?
Pediatric Ophthalmology is specialty training after completion of the regular course. After completing one year of internship, they have to spend three years in diagnosing and treating eye conditions and diseases among kids like macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, corneal problems and many others. It is a super specialty area that takes care of problems with tiny eyes. Since surgical procedures are extremely delicate and complicated, doctors need to handle each case carefully.
Many ailments are associated to eye muscle disorders or disability. Hence, pediatric ophthalmologists receive intensive training for improvement of eye muscles. They avoid surgery as much as possible and try to correct it through exercises and medication. However, in some cases it becomes inevitable. Patients need to get hospitalized for a few days, and there are certain precautions after the surgical procedure. Doctors explain about pre or post care of the patient and expect that parents follow the instruction accurately for achieving fast recovery.
Why should parents consult pediatric ophthalmologists?
A pediatric ophthalmologist discusses with the parents and performs a detailed analysis of the case before recommending treatment. Ocular examination is carried out first to find out the visible issues. It is possible to identify problems like to and fro oscillation, irregularities of optic nerves, abnormalities related to vision or retinal disturbances at the early stage. The treatment methodology depends on the severity of the case. Sometimes, doctors may ask to consult a pediatric neurologist as well or recommend imaging study to diagnose the problem in detail. Sometimes, advanced tests like Electroretinogram or VEP (Visual Evoked Response) are required for further investigation.
When should parents raise an alarm?
Parents should be attentive and alert to the behavior and response of the kids. If they complain about blurry vision, pain or any other problem, then parents should consult the doctor immediately. When there are visible deformities like cross eyes or misalignment, it is important to seek an expert’s opinion. Since a majority of childhood problems can be arrested fully, parents need to be vigilant and fast.
A few ailments treated by pediatric ophthalmologists
The most commonly treated ailments are Strabismus (crossed eye), Amblyopa (lazy eye), Child Glaucoma, inherited eye diseases and vision problems. Eye injuries or problems in vision due to certain medical conditions are other ailments.
- Amblyopia: An amblyopic eye in kids can’t be used with full potential. In this case, brain selects one eye over the other, and the unselected eye is called amblyopic. Droopy lids, blurred vision and multiple images are some of the symptoms. A pediatric ophthalmologist treats it by encouraging kids to use the weaker eye by patching or blurring the healthy eye. Treatment should start at the early age because it is easier to program the young brain. Sometimes, doctors need to prescribe glasses to make the image clear.
- Strabismus: It is nothing but misalignment of the eyes which may be intermittent or constant. There are two types of visual deformities, the inward crossing or Esotropia and outward drifting or Exotropia. Though kids usually don’t see a double image because their brain tends to ignore one. However, it may eventually cause amblyopia. Ophthalmologists prescribe glasses or suggest surgical process depending on type and severity of the problem.
- Ptosis or droopy lids: When the lid droops and obstructs the vision, it is known as Ptosis, and the lid is called ptotic lid. Surgical process not only resolves the problem, but also addresses other problems like astigmatism or Amblyopia.
- Cataract: Cataract is nothing but blurring or cloudiness of the lens. Though it is considered an ailment of the old age, a few kids have it from birth or develop in the early childhood. Pediatric ophthalmologists look into the problem and arrest as early as possible. Since it interferes with vision significantly, surgical removal becomes essential. In contrast to adult cataract management, kids are supposed to wear contacts or specs for proper focus of the images instead of intraocular lens.
- Nasolacrimal duct obstruction: It is the clogging of the drainage path of the eye. There is a lacrimal gland in the eye which is responsible for the production of tears. There are tiny openings at the corner of the eye that carries tears to the nose. When there is a blockage in the path, it needs immediate attention. Mostly, the problem resolves automatically by external efforts like massage over the area of the duct. However, in some cases, surgical intervention is required.
- Refractive errors: When the eyes focus an image on somewhere else instead of the retina, then it is called a refractive error. When light rays enter the eye through transparent tissue known as the cornea, they get refracted through the lens and travel to the retina where the image is projected. When it doesn’t get focused on the retina optimally, then it causes blurred vision. Doctors treat each refractive error differently, based on the type and severity. Symmetry of the measurement is a critical aspect of diagnosis. Use of glasses is appropriate initially. Contact lenses can be used after a certain age, and surgical processes are suggested after adolescence.
Since accurate diagnosis forms the foundation of correct treatment, parents must see a skilled doctor who has acquired detailed knowledge of pediatric vision abnormalities. Due to high-level specialization, a pediatric ophthalmologist knows the complexity and criticality of each case. They suggest the best possible treatment after investigation.