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Why Your Child Should See an Ophthalmologist

// August 10, 2022

One of the most common disabilities amongst children is vision problems, with one in four school-aged children diagnosed with an eye condition. Children with vision issues typically cannot effectively communicate their vision issues to their caregivers, and initial signs may be hard to detect. So, how can you know that your child sees the world around them as they should? And what should you do if you suspect vision issues?

In this article, we’ll talk about the importance of eye health in early childhood, signs of eye problems you can watch for, and whether you should visit a children’s optometrist or a children’s ophthalmology clinic.

The Importance of Eye Health in Early Childhood

Did you know that for children under the age of 12, 80% of learning is done through sight? Vision provides the most essential information about the world around them for babies and children. Vision problems can drastically interfere with learning, development, and communication. While they are young, children are still learning how to communicate effectively, and vision remains their most important sense. Specialized care, such as having an eye screening at a children’s ophthalmology clinic, is recommended to ensure that their vision is problem-free.

Taking a child for an annual vision screening remains the most important thing to do to detect any vision problems and keep them on the path to learning and growing. At Excel Eye Center, we recommend that each child undergo an annual screening. As part of routine well-child care visits, pediatricians conduct a basic vision screening. Once children are 12 months old, some pediatric offices perform photoscreening, a screening technique where a camera analytic software are used to find refractive error, eye wandering (strabismus), or pupil abnormalities within the eyes. If your pediatrician does not offer photoscreenings, we recommend coming in to our children’s ophthalmology clinic to see one of our pediatric ophthalmologists for a comprehensive screening exam before they enter preschool.

The Importance of Annual Back to School Eye Exams

Many school districts in Utah require an eye exam before entering kindergarten, and for a good reason. Children with vision issues often struggle with school work, hand-eye coordination, and reading comprehension. Those with nearsightedness have problems seeing their teacher or the whiteboard, while children with farsightedness can struggle with reading. Ensuring your child has the proper vision they need to learn successfully helps them grow intellectually, builds their confidence, and helps them feel more comfortable in the classroom. August through October is a great time to bring your child in for an annual eye exam to set them up for success as they start the school year.

11 Signs Your Child Should See an Eye Doctor

Because many children cannot recognize or effectively communicate an eye issue, the best way to know if they need to see an ophthalmologist outside of an annual exam is to watch for specific signs in their behavior or eye health. Here are some signs to watch for:

Family or personal history of eye issues – If there is a history of genetic eye issues in your family or your child has had a history of eye issues, we recommend bringing your child in for routine eye exams.

Misalignment or wandering of eyes – If you notice that the eyes are not lining up when looking at an object or an eye is wandering, it could mean the child has a vision issue. Any eye movement outside of normal eye patterns is a sure sign to schedule an eye checkup.

The child communicates vision issues – Children old enough to recognize that they don’t see clearly may tell you that they have “blurry”, “fuzzy” or “bad” vision. If your child has communicated any vision issues to you, they should have an eye exam.

Any changes in how they react to their environment – If you suspect your child is not responding to visual stimuli in their environment as you think they should (falling, running into furniture, developmental delays in crawling or walking, etc.), it could be a sign that their vision is below average.

Standing close to television, screens, or other objects – This is perhaps one of the most significant hints that your child may have a vision issue. Standing close to the television, holding items close to their face, or hunching over their school work often means the child can’t see clearly.

Squinting – Along with standing or sitting too close to objects, frequent squinting can mean that a child is struggling with their eyesight and can benefit from seeing an eye doctor.

Headaches or eye pain – Complaints from children about headaches or eye pain may mean they are experiencing vision issues. Because the brain and eyes are making an extra effort to focus, it can lead to fatigue and headaches.

Red, irritated eyes or rubbing of the eyes – Any changes to the eye, such as red, irritated eyes or excessive rubbing of the eyes, is a sign that an ophthalmologist should see your child.

Tearing or goopy eyes– If you notice that your child has an eye that is constantly watering and producing a yellowish-white substance, it could mean that the child has a clogged tear duct or infection. A visit to the ophthalmologist can correctly identify the issue and put together a treatment plan going forward.

Light or bright pupils – Any visible changes to a child’s pupils could mean an eye issue such as a pediatric cataract or other growth, and is something that should be addressed urgently. If you have noticed that one or both pupils are no longer black or have taken on a gray or white appearance (something often seen in photos), they should see a pediatric ophthalmologist right away.

Any new changes to a child’s eye – Doing visual inspections of your child’s eyes is important. Schedule an appointment if you see any visible changes, such as different sizes of pupils, eyelids, size of the eyes, or if you see anything else that is concerning.

Should You See a Children’s Optometrist or Ophthalmologist?

Simply put, all children benefit from having an eye exam. But if this is your first time taking your child to an eye doctor, you may not know whether to take them to a children’s optometrist or a children’s ophthalmologist. Let’s discuss the differences between pediatric optometrists and pediatric ophthalmologists.

Pediatric Optometrist

Optometrists are vision doctors who prescribe glasses or contact lenses and provide general eye care for children. An optometrist will often refer your child to a pediatric ophthalmologist if your child is diagnosed with more complex vision or eye problems.

Pediatric Ophthalmologist

Pediatric ophthalmologists are doctors and surgeons. They are specially trained, through more than a decade of medical school, residency, and fellowships to treat children’s eye diseases and issues. A pediatric ophthalmologist also performs annual exams and prescribes glasses and contacts. However, scheduling a routine appointment with a pediatric ophthalmologist will result in a more comprehensive exam for your child because the doctor is trained in diagnosing and treating eye problems form the simplest to the most complex. Should your child require surgery or more complex care for their eye condition, they will already be in capable hands with a pediatric ophthalmologist.

Schedule an Appointment with Utah County’s Top Pediatric Ophthalmology Clinic

At Excel Eye Center, we are proud to offer specialized, compassionate pediatric ophthalmology care from our doctors Scott Yeates and Brad Henriksen. We are the only eye center in Utah County with pediatric ophthalmologists, and have been voted as the “best children’s eye doctor” in the county. In addition, Dr. Brad Henriksen is the only pediatric ophthalmologist in Utah County performing pediatric cataract surgery.

When children come to Excel Eye Center for their appointment, they feel comfortable in our child-friendly eye care center. Not only are our pediatric ophthalmologists experts in performing exams on children and helping them feel at ease, but our technicians and associates know how to make children feel welcomed and comfortable in what can be an unfamiliar environment. Our pediatric ophthalmologists perform exams using techniques and equipment specifically designed with children in mind, allowing them to complete a more thorough exam.

You can make appointments with our kid-friendly physicians by filling out this form or by giving us a call. We work to get you in as quickly as possible. Come see why both kids and parents love coming to our children’s ophthalmology clinic for their routine and specialized care. Make an appointment with Excel Eye Center today for the best in pediatric eye care.