When It’s Time to See the Pediatric Ophthalmologist

Your little ones eyes are her windows to the world. Many potentially serious eye problems begin in infancy, but can go undetected.

Your pediatrician or family doctor will screen your child’s eyes at birth and at regular checkups. But there are times when a trip to the specialist the pediatric ophthalmologist is the best option.

Pediatric ophthalmologists are trained to diagnose, treat, and manage all children’s eye problems, as well as prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses. They are also skilled at recognizing the sometimes subtle signs of an eye problem that a baby or young child cannot describe.

Some common eye problems in children include:

Blocked tear ducts. This relatively common condition occurs in infancy when a membrane in the tear duct that drains to the nose does not open after birth. Tears cannot drain, causing perpetual watery eyes and possible eye infections. Most cases resolve without treatment. However, some babies need gentle massage or a surgical procedure to open the membrane.

Pediatric cataracts. Most cataracts develop in older people. But some children are born with them or develop them in childhood as a result of other diseases, such as diabetes. A cataract is a clouding of the eyes lens that can cause blurred or double vision. Some cataracts require surgery.

Amblyopia or lazy eye. Amblyopia is a condition in which vision is one eye is reduced because the eye and brain are not working together properly. The eye may look normal, but the brain is favoring the good eye. Left untreated, vision can become permanently impaired in the lazy eye. In some, but not all, cases, amblyopia is caused by strabismus (see below). Amblyopia is the most common cause of visual problems in children. Treatment includes special eye drops or patching the good eye to force the lazy eye to work.

Strabismus. This is a condition in which the eyes are crossed or wander. One eye may gaze straight ahead while the other moves upward, downward, or outward. Treatment for strabismus also includes patching and eye drops to make the weak eye do more work.


Warning signs of eye problems in your child include:

• Persistent watery eyes

• Frequent rubbing of the eyes when your child is not sleepy

• Sensitivity to light

• White or yellow material in the pupil

• Redness that doesn’t go away

• Pus or crust in the eyes

• Crossed or wandering eyes

• Squinting

• Frequent tilting or turning of the head

• Drooping or bulging eyes or eyelids

Online Medical Reviewer: Desrosiers, Florence MD

Date Last Reviewed: 4/2/2010

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