Pediatric ophthalmologists focus on the development of the visual system and the various diseases that disrupt visual development in children. Pediatric ophthalmologists also have expertise in managing the various ocular diseases that affect children. Pediatric ophthalmologists are qualified to perform complex eye surgery as well as to manage children’s eye problems using glasses and medications. Many ophthalmologists and other physicians refer pediatric patients to a pediatric ophthalmologist for examination and management of ocular problems due to children’s unique needs. In addition to children with obvious vision problems, children with head turns, head tilts, squinting of the eyes, or preferred head postures (torticollis) are typically referred to a pediatric ophthalmologist for evaluation. Pediatric ophthalmologists typically also manage adults with eye movement disorders (such as nystagmus or strabismus) due to their familiarity with strabismus conditions.
Some of the common eye disorders seen in children include:
Squint or strabismus
Misalignment of the eyes is a condition called squint Or strabismus. It can be congenital or acquired and can be classified based on the direction that eyeball is turned towards.
(1) Convergent squint or esotropia – when both eyes are turned inwards
(2) Divergent squint or exotropia – eyes are turned outwards
A child who has squint eyes, also has chances of+ developing amblyopia.
Amblyopia occurs when the pathways that carry vision messages from the eye to the brain are not strong enough. As a result, the brain favours the other eye. The condition is also known as lazy eye. Amblyopia happens to be the most common cause of vision problems in children.
While squint eyes can be treated by surgery, arnblyopia is corrected by patching or occlusion treatment where the strong eye is patched encouraging the lazy eye to focus better.
This is a condition characterized by the rapid involuntary movement of the eyes. This may occur due to a history of squint or can even be present by birth. Studies suggest that 1 in every 1000 children have nystagmus. Nystagmus can be treated by surgery. Botox treatments to paralyze the ocular muscles and optical aids also help.
Retinopathy of prematurity
Commonly seen in premature babies, retinopathy of prematurity is a disorder in the blood vessels of the eyes. The blood vessels of the eyes are not fully developed in premature babies and abnormal growth of blood vessels and scarring of existing vessels occur, leading to retinal detachment. This eventually leads to vision loss.
Early diagnosis of the condition helps deliver effective treatment. Babies suffering from severe retinopathy are treated with cryotherapy to freeze damage of vessels. Laser photocoagulation to seal retinal borders to Prevent detachment is another treatment option.