Northwestern Medicine physicians provide sub-specialty care in retina, cornea, uveitis, glaucoma, oculoplasty and neuro-ophthalmology for pediatric patients. Please call 312.695.8150 for an appointment. To reach our pediatric ophthalmology specialists at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital, please call 800.543.7362. The full range of pediatric eye disorders, eye trauma and vision problems is managed at Lurie Children's Hospital.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Optometric Association, early detection and treatment of many sight-threatening diseases may prevent visual loss.
When it comes to children, the most important preventive steps are routine eye examinations, visual screening tests, and preventing eye trauma.
Newborns are examined in the nursery for eye infections and eye disorders. Children should receive their first comprehensive eye examination by about age 3, unless a specific condition or history of family childhood vision problems warrants an earlier examination.
Eye trauma is an important cause of vision loss in children. Eye trauma refers to any injury to the eye. As a parent, you can help your child avoid eye trauma with the proper use of safety equipment during sports and recreational activities.
When are eye examinations necessary?
Children are different than adults in that a child's brain develops more rapidly. Any problems a child may experience with his/her vision may disrupt the development of visual pathways to the brain. A critical stage of visual development occurs between birth and age three to four months, during which time the brain must receive clear visual messages from both eyes. Early detection and treatment can prevent loss of vision, learning difficulties, and delayed development.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Optometric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have recommended the following screening stages:
Newborn: All newborns are examined in the nursery for eye infections, abnormal light reflexes, and other eye disorders, such as cataracts.
Six months: Visual screening of infants should be performed during the well-baby visits, particularly checking for how the eyes work together.
Three to four years: Formal visual acuity tests and the complete eye examination should be performed.
Five years and older: Annual visual screening tests by the pediatricians and eye examinations as necessary.
Children often cannot tell you when they are having problems with their vision. Visual screening helps to identify those children who may need further eye examinations and testing. The earlier the detection of vision problems, the more successful the treatment. Always discuss eye examinations and visual screening with your child's doctor.
Eyeglasses for children
If old enough, let your child play an active role in choosing his or her own glasses. The following are features to consider when buying eyeglasses for children:
Shatterproof and impact resistant lenses, especially for children who participate in sport activities
Scratch-resistant coating on the lenses
Spring-loaded frames that are less likely to be bent or warped
Silicone nose pads that prevent glasses from slipping
Cable temples (ear pieces that wrap around the ear) are recommended in children under four years (straps may also be recommended to hold the glasses in place)
Protect your child's eyes from the sun
Although parents go through great lengths to protect their children's skin from the harmful rays of the sun, many forget that the eyes need to be protected, too. Nearly half of American parents do not regularly provide their children with sunglasses that protect their eyes from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. Exposure to sun may set children up for potential vision problems later in life.
The sun can cause sunburned corneas, cancer of the eyelid, cataracts, and macular degeneration, among other problems. In addition, children are more susceptible because their lenses do not block as much UV as adult lenses. Children also tend to spend more time outdoors than their parents, often in places where there is a lot of sun reflection, such as beaches, pools, and amusement parks. Most UV eye damage is cumulative.
Protecting a child's eyes from the sun is simple:
Make sure your child wears a wide-brimmed hat that shades his or her face.
Buy your child sunglasses that block both kinds of UV rays. Make sure the sunglasses fit properly and are comfortable.