Pediatric Eye Doctors in East Tennessee
Pediatric ophthalmologists focus their practice on diagnosing, treating
and managing all children's eye problems. East Tennessee Children’s
Hospital’s ophthalmology team has special training in the medical
and surgical treatment of children's eyes. Because they only treat
children, they are skilled at getting kids to communicate and discuss
challenges with their vision.
Not only are children's bodies different from adults, they also vary
in their ability to communicate. Children frequently cannot speak or become
so anxious that they refuse to speak. As a result, they are not able to
say what is bothering them or answer medical questions to help identify
problems. Pediatric ophthalmologists are trained to assess a child's
non-verbal response and expressions to make an accurate diagnosis.
Treatments That Can Last a Lifetime
Brain cells that control vision continue to develop throughout the first
decade of a child's life. As a result, disorders that may have little
effect on an adult's vision can have a profound or life-long effect
on a child's ability to see. There are also some illnesses only seen
in children. Other problems may not be exclusive to children, but may
affect children differently. A pediatric ophthalmologist is trained to
recognize and manage eye disorders and diseases in children from birth
Children's Eye Exams and Specialized Treatment
If your pediatrician recommends your child see a pediatric ophthalmologist,
take comfort in knowing you are going to someone who has the widest range
of treatment options, the most comprehensive training and the greatest
expertise in treating children's eyes.
Some of the services provided by our eye doctors include:
- Eye exams
- Prescriptions for glasses or contact lenses
- Diagnosis and treatment of eye infections, eye inflammation or problems
caused by conditions such as diabetes or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
- Surgery for problems such as weak blocked tear ducts, cataracts, droopy
eyelids or eye misalignment
Answers to Common Questions About Your Child's Vision
As children grow, vision can change with them. It's important for parents
to protect their child's eyes from possible injury and have their
vision checked regularly. Ophthalmologist Dr. Gary Gitschlag answers some
common questions parents have about their child's vision and medical
problems that can occur.
Q: When should parents have a child's vision checked?
A: There should be an initial evaluation somewhere between the ages of
three and four, and another evaluation when a child is between eight and
10 years old. If a child experiences any sudden and unexplained vision
issues or if there is a family history of eye problems, parents should
ask their child's doctor about seeing an ophthalmologist.
Q: What are some signs that a child might have issues with his/her vision?
A: Red eyes, unequal pupils, poor fixation skills, misaligned eyeballs,
eyes that aren't clear, pupils that aren't round and equal, chronic tearing
and light sensitivity are some signs of vision issues. Also, functional
difficulties, like a child bumping into objects, could be a sign of a
problem. Parents know their child better than anyone and should notify
their pediatrician if they notice any of these problems.
Q: What are common eye problems in children?
A: Lazy eyes, where eyes turn in or out and appear to not work together;
blocked tear ducts, which occurs in 10-15 out of 100 newborns; focus errors;
and congenital (conditions existing from birth) abnormalities are common
problems seen among children. These are usually diagnosed by the child's
pediatrician, and they can be referred to a specialist if needed.
Q: What kind of family history should parents worry about?
A: Significant eye disease before preschool in family members should be
a concern. It is important for children with this family history to be
checked by an ophthalmologist to prevent possible complications in the future.
Q: What can parents do to protect their child's eyes?
A: Many eye injuries are preventable. It's important to always wear safety
goggles during activities that include projectiles, such as paintball.
In the sun, children should wear visors or baseball-type caps; when wearing
sunglasses to shield eyes outdoors, the glassed should have UV protection
to block harmful rays from the sun. Children can also hurt their eyes
with sharp instruments, such as tools. Parents should keep these items
out of the reach of small children to prevent possible eye injuries. If
something is splashed in a child's eye, flush it out immediately before
coming in for treatment. This will minimize the risk of further damage
to the eye from the causticagent.
Q: What is a corneal abrasion?
A: A corneal abrasion is the eye's version of a skinned knee. The surface
layer of the eye, the cornea, is torn. The sensory nerves are very dense
on the surface of the eye, so abrasion can be very painful. This can be
caused by jabbing a finger into an eye, getting grit in the eye then rubbing
it, or the eye being scratched by some sort of object that gets in the
eye. Once any foreign object in the eye is removed, a corneal abrasion
can be treated with eye drops to prevent infection and reduce pain. Most
corneal abrasions clear up fairly quickly with this easily administered
Q: What should I do if my child is cross-eyed? Will they need surgery?
A: If a child is cross-eyed and more than three months old, they need to
be seen immediately. It is normal for a newborn's eyes to appear as if
they are wandering during the baby's first month or two as the visual
system develops and the brain learns to make the eyes work together. After
this age, there is a possibility of permanent vision loss if the misalignment
is not treated. The medical term for crossed eyes is esotropia and can
refer to eye crossing when focusing (which usually occurs in children
that are farsighted), eye crossing that is unrelated to focusing, and
eye crossing that is somewhat dependent on focusing. Surgery is not always
required to fix crossed eyes; glasses, which help eyes focus, may correct
a child's crossed eyes simply by letting the eyes relax. If the glasses
don't work, an ophthalmologist may recommend surgery.
Q: Will sitting too close to the television or computer cause vision problems?
A: Sitting too close to a computer screen or TV is not going to cause vision
problems. Children can actually focus up close better than adults, although
eyes can become strained from being too close to a screen for long periods
of time. Parents should encourage children to stay an arm's length away
from the screen to keep this from happening and limit how long a child
is in front of the television or computer. Sitting close to a TV or computer
screen also may be a sign of nearsightedness so talk with your child's
doctor if you have concerns.
Q: What is a sty? Can it affect my child's vision?
A: A sty is an infection along the eyelid. When the gland there is blocked,
the oil produced by the gland occasionally backs up and forms a lump which
can be red, painful, inflamed or swollen. Bacteria can infect the gland
causing increased inflammation, pain and redness of the eye. A sty usually
does not directly affect vision and may subside on its own in about a
week. In rare cases, surgical treatment for a sty may be necessary. If
the eye is swollen shut, any changes or disturbances in vision occur,
redness appears around the entire eye, the sty bleeds or if swelling lasts
for more than three weeks and the sty is not subsiding on its own, speak
to your child's doctor.