Vision problems in children can be complicated because children, especially very young children, often struggle to describe their symptoms in a clear, articulate fashion. When certain conditions persist, they can have serious ramifications and even require surgery down the road. Complicating matters further, many vision conditions need to be identified at an early age, often before the age of four, to be fully treated or cured.
It’s a good idea to become familiar with common pediatric vision problems, what they look like and what they could mean for your child so you can avoid serious vision problems later.
What are Some of the Common Pediatric Ophthalmology Conditions?
Strabismus describes any misalignment of the eyes, such as eyes facing upward, downward, inward or outward. According to the American Association of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAAPOS), roughly four percent of the U.S. population has strabismus. The direction of misalignment characterizes the type of strabismus. For example, eyes turning inward is referred to esotropia. The other types of strabismus include exotropia (outward misalignment), hypertropia (upward misalignment) and hypotropia (downward misalignment).
The cause of strabismus varies from abnormalities with the neuromuscular control of eye movement to problems with the eye muscle. Essentially, the three cranial nerves that help with eye movement can become weak or paralyzed and ultimately result in strabismus. Receiving treatment from a pediatric ophthalmologist is vital, as more serious conditions such as amblyopia or double vision can develop if treatment is delayed.
It’s important to note that pseudostrabismus is a prevalent condition among some infants. When a child has pseudostrabismus their eyes can appear to be crossed, but it’s often due to the nasal bridge being wider than normal or the skin folds in the corner of the eyes being too broad.
Often the result of strabismus, amblyopia refers to reduced vision in one or both eyes. It’s more commonly referred to as a “lazy eye,” and it’s developed during early childhood, affecting roughly two percent of the population. There are several
categories of amblyopia:
- Strabismic Amblyopia – The most common category of amblyopia, strabismic amblyopia is a result of the brain self-correcting for double vision by only processing what it sees through the non-strabismic eye. It can, unfortunately, lead to permanent vision loss in the affected eye if not treated.
- Refractive Amblyopia – This category of amblyopia is often difficult to spot early on because the child may not complain of blurry vision and their eyes may not show any abnormalities. It occurs when the two eyes have drastically different refractive states, and the brain relies on the eye with the stronger refractive state to see, causing the child to ignore blurry vision in the other eye.
- Deprivation Amblyopia – This is the most severe category of amblyopia. It refers to vision in one or both eyes being deprived due to a separate condition such as cataracts or a similar restrictive condition, ultimately causing the eye to lose functionality.
Another common vision condition among children is pediatric tearing, which is also referred to as epiphora. Tearing occurs due to partially or completely blocked tear ducts. It’s recognizable due to the collection of tears, mucus and other eye drainage in the eyes, causing chronic inflammation and even infection. Tearing is most common among infants, and can resolve itself after several months and in-home treatment.
Ptosis is easily identified by ‘droopy’ eyelids. Children can be born with it or develop it later. Generally, it’s caused by
weakness in the eyelid. The drooping eyelid can potentially block light passing to the retina, causing astigmatism and even amblyopia. If untreated, it may also lead to permanent vision loss.
Many associate glaucoma with older people, but the condition can affect children, and symptoms in children are often more severe. Symptoms include light sensitivity, tearing and gradual opacification of the cornea. Children who have had cataracts surgery and children who have neurofibromatosis or Sturge-Weber syndrome are more likely to develop glaucoma.
Are Treatments Available?
One of the most common traits among the above-listed conditions is that they’re all treatable, and the earlier they’re identified, the easier they are to treat and the less likely your child is to experience any long-term problems with their sight. A vision assessment administered by a pediatric ophthalmologist is the best thing you can do to ensure your child’s eyesight is as healthy as possible.
If you suspect your child may have a vision problem or you would like to schedule a routine vision assessment, consider Edina Eye Physicians. The pediatric ophthalmologists at Edina Eye treat eye problems of all types and severities with an expert touch only a specialist can provide. To schedule a vision assessment call 952-832-8100 or visit us online today!