Pediatric Ophthalmology

Pediatric ophthalmology is an important subspecialty area, as it affects vision of infants and young children, including development, conditions and diseases, routine exams, visual learning disorders, and plenty of others. Just like with adults, there can be many conditions that affect the vision of young children including strabismus, amblyopia, eye movement disorders, cataracts, glaucoma, and a multitude of other binocular vision problems. Many of these conditions and diseases will affect these individuals for the rest of their lives if untreated, and can result in academic difficulties, low confidence, and emotional scars. Early detection and treatment of vision problems at an early age can help avoid many of these issues, which is why pediatric ophthalmology is vital. Pediatric ophthalmology involves many professions, but the main ones involved are pediatric optometrists, orthoptists, and pediatric ophthalmologists. The orthoptist and optometrist sections explain more about these professions.

Pediatric Ophthalmologists

There is no certificate or license specifically for pediatric ophthalmologists (only certificates for residencies and fellowships), so having the title of ophthalmologist does not necessarily make a physician the most capable person in vision care for infants and young children. Even though they may be trained in many aspects including pediatric vision, the medical doctors that can truly serve as pediatric ophthalmologists to their fullest, are those trained through residencies and fellowships, with core training in pediatric vision care that includes hands-on experience in diagnosis, treating, and surgical procedures. They will be more apt at handling pediatric vision problems than an ophthalmologist with no training in pediatric vision

Ophthalmologists who want to focus on pediatric vision care should find an ophthalmology residency program with strong emphasis in pediatrics. Residencies that offer clinical experience in pediatric departments or have ophthalmology departments with a childrenā€™s clinic, are two examples of pediatric ophthalmology training where an ophthalmologist can learn more on proper diagnosis of vision care problems that affect children, see more cases involving children and infants, and possibly perform surgical care such as removing cataracts.

The most qualified pediatric ophthalmologists also have continued training and experience through fellowships, which are designed to enhance and fine tune skills and clinical judgment. Unlike residencies which may rotate between different medical areas that affect different age ranges, fellowships focus on specific tasks for the entire length of the program. This means for a pediatric ophthalmology fellowship, an extra 1 to 3 years in training, specifically dealing with vision problems for infants and children. Ophthalmologists in pediatric ophthalmology fellowships will work in the pediatric departments and spend their days in rotation, examine children for strabismus, help kids in outpatient care with eye training, help with removal of cataracts in surgical rounds, and other educational training requirements as deemed by the specific fellowship.

A career as a pediatric ophthalmologist is not for everyone and many ophthalmologists go towards other subspecialties. There are many reasons for this that all focus on dealing with children. Many medical doctors do not deal with children as well as others, and some are not comfortable seeing children and infants with visual disorder from birth defects, trauma, or other causes. Pediatric ophthalmologists have to be able to handle children in all conditions, including those that are unruly or have mental disorders, and assist them through the vision care regimen. For ophthalmologists who love working with children and take pride in treatment of them, the pediatric subspecialty is definitely a possibility.

When Pediatric Ophthalmology Begins

Pediatric ophthalmology starts at the neonatal stage, as vision develops and detection of certain diseases. After birth, infants are usually checked by a pediatrician for visual functions, but parents can also take them to see optometrist or pediatric ophthalmologist for a more thorough examine. Recommendations from InfantSEEĀ®, a public health program designed in early detection of eye problems in infants and children, include an exam at 6 months to 12 months, 2 years, 4 years, and at regular intervals. This is extremely important, as early detection and treatment before grade school begins can help young children adapt much quicker. For parents who have grade school students that have difficulty learning, this may be caused by an eye disorder that needs to be examined and treated by a pediatric ophthalmologist.


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