Newborn infants are able to see, but as they use their eyes during the first months of life, vision improves. During early childhood years, the visual system changes quickly and vision continues to develop. If a child cannot use his or her eyes normally, vision does not develop properly and may even decrease.
By 9 years of age, the visual system is usually fully developed and usually cannot be changed. For this reason, it is important to see someone who specializes in pediatric ophthalmology. Through a thorough eye exam, we can detect reduced visual acuity, misalignment of the eyes, medical disorders such as amblyopia, strabismus, glaucoma, cataracts and blocked tear ducts to name a few. When an early diagnosis can be made, the child has a much better chance of achieving a better visual outcome.
Babies have limited vision at birth but can see faces at close range, even in the newborn nursery. At about six weeks, a baby’s eyes should follow objects, and by four months should work together. Over the first year or two, vision develops rapidly. A two-year-old usually sees around 20/40.
Parents should be aware of signals of poor vision. If one eye turns outwards or crosses inwards, that eye may not see as well as the other eye. Poor vision may be the reason a child is uninterested in faces or age-appropriate toys or if the eyes rove around or jiggle (nystagmus). Other signs to watch for are tilting the head and squinting. Babies and toddlers compensate for poor vision rather than complain about it.
SThe first recommended eye exam for your child is between the ages of 3-5 years. However, a complete eye exam can be performed on even a newborn child. Visual acuity can be assessed as young as three months of age by fixation patterns. Often visual acuity can be assessed as young as two years of age.
Prescriptions for glasses can also be measured in even the youngest and most uncooperative child by using a special instrument called a retinoscope, which analyzes light reflected through the pupil from the back of the eye.
If you have any suspicion that your child is having visual problems, he/she should be seen right away.
Our pediatric team includes trained pediatric medical assistants, a certified orthoptist and a pediatric ophthalmologist.
Our orthoptist is Zainib Dinani and was trained at the famous Eye Institute at Moorfield Hospital in London, England. She has received four years of formal education and does have the training to see patients and provide therapy on her own. An orthoptist is trained to measure visual acuity, muscle alignment and provide therapy for weak muscles and reading disorders.
Our pediatric ophthalmologist is Sergul Erzurum, MD, FACS and she received her ophthalmology training at Northwestern University in Chicago and her pediatric ophthalmology training at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. She has been in practice since 1993 and is the only pediatric ophthalmologist available in the tri-county area. A pediatric ophthalmologist is a physician who has completed medical school and then received specialty training in the medical and surgical treatment of the pediatric eye.
Most lenses today, especially for children, are made of plastic, which is stronger and lighter than glass. Since children are usually rough with glasses, it’s a good idea to get a scratch-resistant coating on plastic lenses.
Frames come in all shapes and sizes. Choose one that fits comfortably but securely. Devices that keep glasses in place are a good idea for active children and young children with flat nasal bridges. Cable temples, which wrap around the back of the ears, are good for toddlers. Infants may require a strap across the top and back of the head instead of earpieces. Flexible hinges allow the glasses to “grow” with the child, and prevent the side arms from being broken.
Children may not like their glasses although the prescription is correct when they first wear them. Distraction and positive reinforcement help children get in the habit of wearing their glasses. Most important is a comfortable frame. If all else fails, your ophthalmologist can prescribe an eye drop that blurs vision when the glasses are not in place. This often overcomes the child’s initial resistance by wearing glasses.