Does My Child Need to See a Pediatric Ophthalmologist?

As your child grows and develops, keeping an eye on every aspect of their health is essential. Many medical conditions, including eye conditions, are present in childhood.

Annual eye doctor appointments are necessary for children, even if their eyes seem perfectly healthy. But when should you take your child to see a pediatric ophthalmologist? 

There are a few signs and symptoms you can look out for that may indicate certain childhood eye diseases and conditions beyond a refractive error. Keep reading to learn more about what a pediatric ophthalmologist is, what they can treat, and how to know if your child needs to see one!

Optometrist vs. Ophthalmologist

Taking your child to the eye doctor may mean seeing an ophthalmologist or an optometrist. An optometrist is not the same as an ophthalmologist. An optometrist has an optometry degree.

An optometrist can examine a patient’s eyes and diagnose certain conditions, like a refractive error. These include nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. 

They can assess your child’s vision and give them a prescription for glasses or contact lenses. They can also examine your child’s eyes for other concerns that may impact their ability to stay healthy. 

However, beyond looking at your eyes and helping you find glasses or contact lenses, you and your child will have to see an ophthalmologist.

Ophthalmologists, on the other hand, have a medical degree. A medical degree allows an ophthalmologist to prescribe more complex treatments and perform surgical procedures like LASIK, cataract surgery, and corneal transplants.  

Pediatric ophthalmologists specialize in eye conditions that are most common in children. These ophthalmologists receive special training that allows them to diagnose and treat those health issues. 

If your child is experiencing an issue with keeping their eyes healthy, seeing a pediatric ophthalmologist is best. A pediatric ophthalmologist will be better equipped than an optometrist or even an ophthalmologist. 

They can both diagnose and treat whatever the issue is, ensuring your child’s eyes are healthy and able to see the world around them clearly.

Common Childhood Eye Health Concerns

There are many childhood eye diseases and conditions. Some of the most common issues include:

  • Strabismus (crossed eyes)
  • Amblyopia (lazy eye)
  • Refractive errors like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism
  • Sensory abnormalities 
  • Double vision
  • Eye infections
  • Eye injuries

Our pediatric ophthalmologists can treat all these conditions and more at New England Eye Center’s Pediatric Services, located on the Tufts campus’s sixth floor of the Floating Hospital for Children. But to know when you should take your child in, you must know what signs and symptoms to look for.

Signs of Common Childhood Eye Health Issues

There are a lot of things to look out for when it comes to your child’s eye health. Some of the most common signs of potential issues with your child’s eye health include:

  • Noticing your child crossing their eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Your child has more headaches than usual
  • They have trouble concentrating
  • Their performance in school declines
  • You’ve seen them squinting while watching TV
  • Itchy eyes
  • Red eyes

If your child typically sees an optometrist, they may be able to diagnose the root cause of some of these symptoms. But they’ll likely refer you to an ophthalmologist if the issue is more complex than a refractive error. 

You may save time and money by seeing a pediatric ophthalmologist preemptively. If your child experiences common symptoms like eye pain or fatigue, consider taking them to see one of the pediatric ophthalmologists at New England Eye Center.

What to Expect at Your Child’s Visit

When you make an appointment at our Pediatric Service Center, make sure to bring your insurance information and your child’s medical records. You should also bring any pertinent family medical history that may benefit a pediatric ophthalmologist. 

The first thing you’ll review at your child’s appointment is their personal and family medical history. This information helps give an accurate understanding of their risk for various eye conditions. 

Then, one of our doctors or a staff member will briefly check your child’s visual acuity with standard eye charts to get a general sense of their vision. They’ll also dilate your child’s pupils. 

Dilating your child’s pupils ensures that your child’s pediatric ophthalmologist and any staff can see into their eyes at all angles to assess their internal eye health. With all the prep work done, your pediatric ophthalmologist will then come in to examine your child’s eyes and run several tests. 

The first pediatric ophthalmologist appointment takes at least an hour for new patients. It can take longer if your child’s eye doctor sees any potential issues. 

If they find any signs of a potential issue, they can then diagnose it and devise a treatment plan without referring you elsewhere. If your child’s eyes are healthy and they don’t see any potential concerns, they can recommend taking them in again for regular appointments, depending on their risk level for certain eye conditions. 

Taking your child to see a pediatric ophthalmologist when they show signs of potential issues with their vision is the best way to ensure they receive a prompt diagnosis and treatment. 

Is your child having issues seeing? Request an appointment at New England Eye Center in Boston, MA, today! 

Why wait longer when your child’s vision is on the line?

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