As we finish August and head into the new school year, parents are focusing on keeping their families healthy and happy! MUSC Storm Eye Institute’s Dr. Ed Wilson shares some of his top tips for parents in honor of Children’s Eye Health & Safety Month. Dr. Wilson is a pediatric ophthalmologist, specializing in pediatric cataracts.
Vision Screenings Every 1-2 Years
Children do not always complain when they have trouble seeing and there may be no outward signs of an issue. Parents may not know that their child is having trouble. That is why vision screenings are so important.
Regular vision screenings are available at pediatrician’s offices and often in schools. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends vision screening beginning at age 12 months and continuing every 1-2 years. These are easy and fun, instrument based screenings that provide a pass-fail result. Those that fail are directed to an eye care provider for a full comprehensive eye exam.
What can parents can look for? If you notice an odd reflection in your child’s pupil or an intermittent crossing of the eyes, schedule an examination at a pediatric ophthalmology office.
Wear Eye Protection
Dr. Wilson recommends that all children playing sports should wear eye protection. Far too many serious eye injuries occur in youth sports including baseball, basketball, soccer and football. These are all preventable. In addition, projectiles from BB guns, paint-ball guns or pellet guns as well as sharp sticks, darts, and knives cause some of the most serious eye injuries in the 10-14 year age group. 70% of the patients with these injuries are boys.
Monitor Difficulty in School
Children with blurred vision often have difficulties in school. When near-sightedness or astigmatism is present, a simple pair of glasses can change a child’s learning achievement dramatically. Dr. Wilson gives a word of caution, however: specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia, reading or math problems are not usually caused by eye trouble and are not effectively treated with eye exercises.
Early Detection & Treatment of Cataracts
Catching serious eye problems early can preserve a child’s vision. Cataracts can develop in children as early as birth or as late as the teenage years. On the day of birth, a cataract presents as an absence of the normal red reflex (the red glow in the pupil – like the red eye in a photograph). The red reflex is checked by the pediatrician shortly after delivery. When cataracts develop in toddlers or school-aged children the presentation is often a white or grey-white reflex in the pupil, a new onset eye turn (an eye crossing inward or drifting outward) or a complaint of blurred vision and/or glare in bright light.
Early detection and treatment of cataracts in children is essential since delays can caused permanent vision loss from amblyopia (lazy eye). However, not every childhood cataract is severe enough to block vision. An experienced pediatric ophthalmologist needs to evaluate partial cataracts to see how visually significant the cataracts are. Mild or partial cataracts are often followed closely over time since they can worsen as the eyes continue to grow and develop.
Cataract surgery in children is very different than the surgery performed in elderly adults. Pediatric cataract surgeons are usually pediatric ophthalmologists with a special interest in cataracts. These surgeries are best performed by surgeons who perform these procedures frequently and have a dedicated team of technicians and nurses helping. Older children receive an artificial lens implant at the time of cataract removal. Babies, however, more often wear a special extended-wear contact lens after surgery and receive the permanent lens implant later, at around age 4-6 years.
Schedule Your Child’s Vision Screening at the MUSC Storm Eye Institute
The Storm Eye Institute offers the most comprehensive pediatric eye care services in the state. We have a team of four board-certified, award-winning pediatric ophthalmologists and two full-time pediatric ophthalmology fellows. Call 843-792-2020 or visit MUSC Children's Health to learn more and schedule an appointment for your child.