Early diagnosis and treatment is vital for many paediatric eye conditions. Any eye condition raised during routine health checks, such as those by a maternal and child health nurse or GP, should be taken seriously and a prompt eye examination carried out.
All children should have their eyes tested at pre-school age. This can be done by a paediatric optometrist or ophthalmologist.
Eye health issues for children include:
If in doubt, always seek prompt medical attention to reduce the risk of serious complications.
Some of the common symptoms associated with childhood eye conditions:
Your child should have a comprehensive eye examination with an optometrist from around 3 years of age, unless an eye problem is noticed prior to this. If there are any concerns, your child may be referred to an ophthalmologist for further investigation and/or management. Early detection of any eye problem will ensure prompt treatment and help to minimise any vision loss or visual dysfunction.
Tests that may be performed during a paediatric ophthalmology exam include:
At this point of the examination, the child’s pupils are dilated with eye drops to allow the following routine tests:
It’s important to remember that refractive errors, lazy eye (amblyopia), congenital cataracts and congenital glaucoma are life-long conditions. Ongoing review appointments are required, especially in the first few months after diagnosis and as the child gets older and their visual needs change.
If your child has a refractive error (e.g. short-sightedness, astigmatism or long-sightedness), he/she will be prescribed corrective glasses. Contact lenses are an option for older children (e.g. if their glasses interfere with sports). However, they will only be prescribed for occasional use.
Children with a lazy eye require therapy and exercises to strengthen the weaker eye. This treatment is usually overseen by an orthoptist. The type of treatment will depend on the degree of amblyopia, the age of the child and the duration of treatment.
Many children with a lazy eye may have ‘patching’ therapy, where a patch is put on their normal (good) eye for a few hours a day to promote visual focus in the weaker eye work.
Atropine eye drops may also be used to achieve this result. If atropine drops are used, please remember to keep them out of the child’s reach at all times.
Importantly, your child’s vision will be tested to determine if he or she needs to wear glasses as well. Regular checks are required to monitor this condition.
Misalignment of the eyes, or strabismus, requires intervention as early as possible to prevent irreversible vision loss later in life. Lazy eye may result from having crossed eyes.
Treatment options include:
Treatment depends on the severity of the condition, but may include some or all of the following :
Most children diagnosed with childhood cataracts are able to live a full and normal life. The aim of management in this condition is to maximise the child’s vision. This may be achieved in the initial stages with glasses, but surgery may be needed in the following years. Infants and children under the age of 5 years are at risk of severe visual loss, so surgery may be considered early for these patients.
Initially, eye drops or oral medication may be prescribed to lower the pressure inside the eye. However, surgery is often the mainstay of treatment for this disease. There are several types of surgeries that can be considered and these will be discussed appropriately by your ophthalmologist.
A child with an eye injury or eye trauma should be taken to your GP, ophthalmologist or hospital emergency department immediately. If you are coming to one of our clinics with an emergency, please ring ahead and notify us so that we can be prepared for your arrival and institute emergency procedures where necessary.
Your GP can determine if the conjunctivitis is viral or bacterial. Most cases, even if bacterial, are mild and resolve by themselves. Generally, you will only be referred to an ophthalmologist if there are complications, or if the condition does not improve or worsens.