He’s staying a little close to the TV as he watches cartoons, and there’s a frown on his face in place of a delighted smile. He squints and hesitates before he walks over to get his favorite toy across the room. Could it be just a phase your child is going through? These are just some of the signs that tell you: It’s time for a trip to the ophthalmologist.
Unclear about eyesight The problem children have with their eyesight is that sometimes, “they don’t know what clear vision is in the first place,” explains Patricia Villa, M.D., pediatric ophthalmologist at The Medical City. Problems with eyesight, Villa says, can be with the child as soon as he is born, so looking for signs of poor vision in children is not enough. “Sometimes, it’s like an accidental diagnosis when they visit the clinic.”
“The child will not complain if there is a problem, so he must be checked regularly,” says Patricia Santiago, M.D., pediatric ophthalmologist at St. Luke’s Medical Center. Doctors Santiago and Villa advise parents to bring your child for an eye checkup as soon as he is six months old, and yearly after this. Dr. Santiago stresses that parents who have poor eyesight should bring their child for a checkup, since problems with seeing can be hereditary.
See eye to eye An eye checkup isn’t something your child should be afraid of. During a checkup, your ophthalmologist will run a procedure called cycloplegic refraction. Here, your doctor will use eye drops to dilate your child’s pupils so his eyes can be inspected up close for visual acuity or sharpness of vision. Your doctor will then be able to determine whether there is a misalignment or a refractive error in your child’s eyes. For kids in their school years, doctors also use picture and letter charts from which they will be asked to identify figures at various sizes and positions.
“The main objective in a pedia-tric clinic is to diagnose a lazy eye or amblyopia,” stresses Dr. Villa. Children with high refractive errors in one or both eyes become susceptible to this. A lazy eye does not see clearly, and your doctor can check for this through the eye’s nerves that are connected to the brain. “The weaker eye tends to shut down and no matter what amount of grade you put, it will be blurred permanently,” explains Dr. Villa.
To prevent your child from getting a lazy eye, he will need to wear glasses or undergo periods of patching. “You patch the stronger eye so that that brain will not forget the poorer eye. You can start patching as early as six months,” says Dr. Santiago.
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