Paediatric Optometry

Description: Does your child have eye problems that require treatment? This article explains what paediatric optometry is and which vision disorders can be treated.


An Overview of Paediatric Optometry

Paediatric optometry is a branch of optometry that focuses on methods for evaluating and executing tests to determine eye problems and pathological visual defects in children. To avoid confusion, the difference between optometrists and ophthalmologists will be explained below.

What is an Ophthalmologist?

An ophthalmologist is concerned with the study of visual perception illnesses and functional disorders, especially the seeing organ. Generally speaking, visual activity extends from the eye lid’s skin to the visual cortex in the brain. Ophthalmologists however, also do a lot of optometric measurements including those used for correcting astigmatism, farsightedness and shortsightedness. Children’s ophthalmology includes the use of measurements for assessing eye movement, eye parallax errors and near focus.

Every measurement used to determine what contact lenses to use are also those used in optometry. However, their primary purpose is medicinal treatment concerning pathological changes in the eye such as injuries, infection, cornea and glaucoma. What is an Optometrist? Optometry for children involves the measurement of the eyes and possible defects. Optometry is also concerned with the study of psychological optics, or the effects of optical corrections. To keep it simple, all the steps used in taking measurements in adults are also used in children.

There are several measurements that may be used on children such as sight acuity, subjective and objective evaluation concerning refraction or dioptric sight defect. If necessary, the refraction can be performed with the help of cyclopledic eye drops to turn near focus off. In several instances the “dropping in” is not required to determine  the cause of the visual defect.

An ophthalmologist relies on eye drops more frequently because they widen the pupil which is required for retina examination. An optometrist also does the same measurements to assess binocular sight and also determine other binocular ideal sight defects such as amblyopia, aniserkonia, heterophoria and squinting errors. Particularly important paediatric optometric measurements are accommodation and convergence. Paediatric optometrists provide several specialties, including writing and reading defects. During the measurements, the visual acuity of each eye is examined, and other aspects are covered. Among these are colormetry, pupil reaction, positive and negative relative convergence positioning speed and positive and negative relative accommodation positioning speed.

Optometry also covers accommodative, absolute and relative convergence, associated and dissociated phoria, eye mobility, color vision, contrast vision as well as stereopsis. Also included are objective and subjective dioptric deviances and binocular sight acuity. All the measuring results are performed to ensure the proper corrective measures can be taken. The process usually lasts from 45 to 60 minutes, though it can vary depending on the case.

When to Take a Child to an Optometrist

Your child should have an eye checkup regularly, but if the child complains of headaches, blurred vision, red eyes or sore eyes, it’s time to take him / her to an optometrist. To put it simply, any time your child feels there is something affecting their vision should require a visit to an optometrist. This is especially true if the child complains of continuous headaches or headaches brought about by activities. Finding an optometrist doesn’t have to be difficult especially if you know what you’re looking for. The first thing you should check is board certification. A board certified optometrist is someone who has completed an oral and written examination confirming their expertise in the field as required by the state where they practice.

Another way to verify this information is to consult your state optometrist association and check if that optometrist is part of the association. Because these state groups subject members to periodic checks, it provides assurance they meet all the state requirements.

Ask Your Doctor

Another option is to simply ask your doctor if they can recommend someone. Your doctor can also help clear up any confusion you may have concerning optometry and ophthalmology so you don’t make a mistake during the consultation.

Common Eye Disorders in Children

  • Amblyopia: also known as lazy eye, this condition results in reduced vision in one of the eyes due to pediatric cataract, refractive error or strabismus (misalignment of the eyes). If the condition is recognized during the preschool years, the disorder will respond to treatment. If amblyopia is recognize when the child is 9 or 10 years old, treatment will be more difficult. Symptoms include squinting in one eye, double vision, head tilting and poor depth perception.
  • Astigmatism: astigmatism results in objects appearing blurred, both near and far.  This is due to an uneven curvature in the cornea or lens, and this keeps light from getting into the child’s eyes, causing the blurring of vision. Astigmatism usually affects those with hyperopia (farsightedness) or myopia (nearsightedness).
  • Childhood Tearing: this is often noticed during infancy and is the result of tear drainage system blocking. Usually the tearing improves without treatment when the infant reaches 6 to 12 months, but if the symptoms persist, eye drops or surgery may be required.
  • Hyperopia (farsightedness): children afflicted with this disorder see objects far away more clearly compared to those nearby. Usually the farsighted eye is smaller compared to regular eyes, and this makes it hard for light rays to focus on the retina. Hyperopia may be inherited, and while most children are usually farsighted, this condition disappears as they grow, but in some cases it doesn’t.
  • Myopia (nearsightedness): this is the opposite of farsightedness in that the child can see objects nearby clearly but those far away appear blurred. Myopic eyes forces light from distance objects to focus before it can get to the retina, and this can result in the blurring.
  • Nystagmus: Nystagmus is a condition that leads to a rhythmic oscillation of the child’s eyes. These involuntary movements can cause the eyes to move rotary, up and down or side to side. This condition may be apparent at birth or it could be acquired later on.

The field of paediatric optometry is a broad one, and under the guidance of a skilled optometrist, your child’s eye problems can be treated properly and prevent the condition from deteriorating.