What is paediatric ophthalmology?
A children's eye doctor, or paediatric ophthalmologist, diagnoses, prevents, and treats diseases that affect children's eyes and vision.
Good eye care is essential during childhood as many visual problems develop while the eyes are growing and may affect the child's future development.
Conditions that are treated with children's ophthalmology
The most common conditions which affect eyesight during childhood are:
- Developmental disorders, which are often diagnosed shortly after birth or within the first year of life;
- Refractive/optical problems (short-sightedness, long-sightedness, astigmatism);
- Short-sightedness (myopia) is becoming more common in children and young people, and over the past two years, new treatments have become available to slow down the worsening of myopia;
- Amblyopia (commonly known as lazy eye);
- Inflammation on the surface of or inside the eye, including allergic eye disease;
- Infections of the conjunctiva, the transparent membrane which covers the white part of the eye and the inside of the eyelids;
- Eyelid lesions.
A child's learning and academic performance can be affected by undiagnosed and untreated vision problems. Eye conditions can also affect children's quality of life by limiting their ability to take part in age-appropriate activities.
When to see a paediatric ophthalmologist
All children have a basic eye check at birth to make sure there is no developmental defect such as cataract or retinoblastoma. Most children then have a basic vision check at the age of 4 to 5 years, as part of the school vision screening programme.
If you have any concerns about your child's eyes or vision, you should arrange a sight test by your local optometrist. Children under the age of 5-6 years may require a specialist assessment by a paediatric ophthalmologist.