Most people associate vision problems with aging. But contrary to popular belief, waiting until vision begins to degenerate to see an eyecare professional is not be the best way to manage your vision needs.
In fact, some children are born with eye conditions that can get worse if they’re not diagnosed or treated - premature babies, for example, are particularly vulnerable to eye problems. Because these issues in infants can be difficult to detect, it is recommended that all children - regardless of whether or not they show symptoms of living with vision issues - undergo their first eye exam with a pediatric ophthalmologist before the age of 2.
Why a pediatric ophthalmologist? While a general pediatrician can spot some serious eye problems, a certified pediatric ophthalmologist has the equipment and training necessary to detect more subtle changes in your child’s vision. And seeing a qualified eye doctor early in life will also ensure that you’re working to protect your child’s vision for years to come, for a number of reasons:
School Screenings Often Fall Short: Some schools require students to undergo screenings to detect eye problems before they enroll. Make no mistake - these can be extremely helpful in detecting major vision problems so that children can get further treatment from an eye care specialist. However, these screenings often miss hard-to-detect conditions like weakened eye muscles. In addition, school eye screenings usually don’t examine the student’s near vision. All in all, a visit with a pediatric ophthalmologist will be much more comprehensive - and is worth the extra time!
The Earlier The Diagnosis, The Easier It Is To Treat: Unlike vision problems in older adults, which can be difficult to treat, most vision problems in young children are extremely treatable. For example, take amblyopia, which is usually referred to as “lazy eye”: Amblyopia, according to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology, causes more vision loss in children than all other problems combined. However, in most instances, the disease can be treated effectively during childhood - later in life, it isn’t very correctable. This means that - once again - a visit with a pediatric ophthalmologist is worth scheduling sooner rather than later!
Harder to Detect: If you’re a parent, you know as well as anyone how difficult communicating with a young child can be. So, often times, when young children have eye problems, they either don’t know that it isn’t normal or don’t speak up about it. A pediatric ophthalmologist, however, will be able to spot issues that you and your child don’t know about - and will help you address them quickly and efficiently.
As you can see, eye exams for your children are extremely beneficial for their vision health. However, while scheduling yearly visits with a pediatric ophthalmologist is important, parents should also be extra attentive to possible warning signs of vision problems. For example, if your child doesn’t see something the way that you see it, or if he or she frequently looks at objects too close, schedule an eye exam. It can also be helpful to be aware of vision problems in your family tree - these clues can make it easier for a pediatric ophthalmologist to diagnose specific vision problems in your child. Regular exams, combined with good communication and observation, will help protect your child’s vision now and for years to come.
Everett & Hurite Ophthalmic Association is a Pittsburgh-based eye doctor with offices in Uptown, Butler, Cranberry Township, Greensburg, and more. If you’re child is approaching two years of age or you suspect that he or she is having difficulty seeing, click here to make an appointment with one of our pediatric ophthalmologists.