Does your child need to see a pediatric ophthalmologist?
Your little one’s eyes are his or her windows to the world. Many potentially serious eye problems begin in infancy, but can go undetected.
Your pediatrician or family doctor will screen your child’s eyes at birth and at regular checkups. But there are times when a trip to the specialist – the pediatric ophthalmologist – is the best option.
Pediatric ophthalmologists are trained to diagnose, treat and manage all children’s eye problems, as well as prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses. They are also skilled at recognizing the sometimes subtle signs of an eye problem that a baby or young child cannot describe.
Some common eye problems in children include:
Blocked tear ducts. “This relatively common condition occurs in infancy when a membrane in the tear duct that drains to the nose does not open after birth,” explains Florin Grigorian, MD, Pediatric Ophthalmologist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. “Tears cannot drain, causing perpetual watery eyes and mucous discharge.” Most cases resolve without treatment. But some babies need gentle massage or a surgical procedure to open the membrane.
Pediatric cataracts. Most cataracts develop in older people. But some children are born with them or develop them in childhood as a result of other diseases, such as metabolic or genetic conditions. “A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens that can cause blurred vision or severe amblyopia,” says Dr. Grigorian.
Amblyopia, or “lazy eye.” Amblyopia is a condition in which vision in one eye is reduced because the eye and brain are not working together properly. The eye may look normal, but the brain is favoring the “good” eye. Left untreated, vision can become permanently impaired in the “lazy” eye.
In some cases, amblyopia is caused by strabismus (see below). Treatment includes special eyedrops or patching the “good” eye to force the “lazy” eye to work. “Amblyopia is the most common cause of visual loss in children,” adds Dr. Grigorian.
Strabismus. This is a condition in which the eyes are crossed or wander. One eye may gaze straight ahead while the other moves upward, downward or outward. Surgery to adjust the muscles of the eye is often needed.
Uveitis. This is a condition in which the inflammation is located inside of the eyeball and is an important cause for the red eye. “Uveitis can cause significant scarring and vision loss if not diagnosed and treated in an expedited manner. This is a challenge in children as sometimes they do not have red eye or pain. For this reason, screening with special instruments in a pediatric ophthalmology clinic is critical,” adds Dr. Grigorian.
Early detection of eye problems can protect your child’s sight. Dr. Grigorian says warning signs that your child may have an eye problem include the following:
- Persistent watery eyes
- Frequent rubbing of the eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- White or yellow material in the pupil
- Redness that does not go away
- Pus or crust in the eyes
- Crossed or wandering eyes
- Frequent tilting of the head or turning of the face
- Drooping eyelids or bulging eyes
“If your child has a vision problem, his or her eyes may need more frequent screenings,” says Dr. Grigorian. “Talk with your child’s pediatric ophthalmologist about what schedule is best for him or her.”
Expert eye care, close to home
UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Ophthalmology team treats the full range of pediatric
eye problems, from rare disorders to the most common childhood vision issues, at the following locations:
6001 Landerhaven Drive, Suite B
Mayfield Heights, OH 44124
UH Hudson Health Center
5778 Darrow Road, Suite 104
Hudson, OH 44236
UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital
11100 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44106
UH Westlake Health Center
950 Clague Road, Building B/
Westlake, OH 44145
Schedule an appointment today. Call 440-684-1374 or visit RainbowBabies.org.
FLORIN GRIGORIAN, MD
UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital
Clinical Instructor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine