Keeping an Eye on Your Children’s Eyes
It is very important to realize that the vast majority of children have normal, healthy eyes and do not need glasses or “eye treatments.” Many children might be slightly nearsighted or farsighted. They do not need glasses. Except in very rare cases are bifocals ever needed for a child. Children’s eyes are examined by pediatricians and family-practice physicians at birth and on routine visits. If the doctor or parents suspect a problem, then a visit to a pediatric ophthalmologist is appropriate. Routine, annual exams by an ophthalmologist are unnecessary.
The most common problem for children is conjunctivitis, commonly called “pink eye.” Most forms of pink eye are caused by viruses and are associated with a common cold. They get better on their own. If there is greenish/yellowish discharge, then an antibiotic might be necessary. This is as contagious and as dangerous as a common cold.
Some children have an eye that crosses in [esotropia] or turns out [exotropia]. If one eye is constantly “turned,” then the child might develop poor vision [amblyopia also called “lazy eye”]. This has to be treated as soon as it is discovered. Sometimes patching the straight eye is necessary to force the weak eye to work. If left untreated, the “turned” eye might have a permanent loss of vision. Frequently, glasses can be used to help straighten the “turned” eye but occasionally surgery is required. “Eye exercises” almost always have no value.
Learning difficulties such as reading disabilities are common in children. They can be a frustrating problem for the teachers, parents, and especially for the child. Eye exercises and special glasses have no place in the treatment of these problems. They are expensive, time consuming, and take the focus away from the educational help that is needed. Parents are often confused and intimated by the pseudoscientific terms used in connection with eye exercises such as “visual motor perceptual training,” “eye tracking,” and “eye teaming.” The fact is that children with learning difficulties have nothing at all wrong with their eyes. In studies comparing children with reading disabilities, those receiving eye exercises and vision training ended up at the same point as those who didn’t receive the eye exercises. Teaching in school and at home, as well as maturity with time, are the deciding factors for improvement in reading skills.
Headaches are common in children and adults and almost never are they an indication that a child needs glasses.
There are very rare diseases such as congenital glaucoma, ocular tumors, and childhood cataracts. In the vast majority of these diseases they are detected by the child’s doctor or the parents. They aren’t something that is just discovered by surprise on a routine eye exam.
One of the big dangers for children is trauma. BB guns, darts, paint ball guns, bungee cords, snowballs, tennis balls, golf balls, racquet balls, and household cleaners create more damage than all of the congenital glaucoma, ocular tumors, and childhood cataracts put together. Use safety glasses and common sense to protect your children.
Yes, most children are normal. However, when the doctor or parent feels that there could be a problem, then it is time for a visit to a pediatric ophthalmologist.