By Dr. Daniel Bustos, PeaceHealth Medical Group Ophthalmologist
It can be easy to assume, if your children don't complain of vision problems, that they see everything well. However, that isn't always the case.
Many parents tell me, after we've discovered that their child has a significant need for glasses, that they had no idea their child had a vision problem.
In many cases, it can be difficult for the child to know, let alone the parents, if there is a vision problem, because the child really doesn't have a frame of reference.
Thankfully, if parents are keeping up with their well-child checkups with their pediatrician, and if the child is getting regular school vision screenings, most vision problems get detected. If these opportunities for vision screenings are missed, however, the vision problem potentially can be permanent and life-altering.
For example, amblyopia is a treatable and reversible cause of permanent vision dysfunction in adults, but it has its roots and potential cure in childhood. Amblyopia is when an eye has limited vision because of the lack of visual pathway development in the brain corresponding to that eye.
When a child is born, in order for these pathways to form for each eye, the brain has to be presented with an equal and clear image from each eye.
When the brain gets a better image presented to it from one eye than the other, it will favor the eye providing the better image and ignore, to a certain extent, the development of the visual pathways for the eye presenting the inferior image.
From that point on, even if the poorer image from that eye is corrected, that eye will forever more have decreased vision unless the amblyopia is treated.
Thankfully, if caught before the age of 10 to 12 years, amblyopia is very treatable. The treatment consists of correcting the problem that caused the amblyopia with surgery or the use of prescription eyeglasses, then patching the "good" eye for a prescribed number of hours per week, to encourage the brain to use the amblyopic eye.
With patching, most children with amblyopia will see their vision in the amblyopic eye permanently become equal with the good eye.
Understanding the quality of your child's vision and getting appropriate treatment for any vision-threatening problems can mean the difference between excellent vision allowing a full and productive work life, and going through life with only one "good" eye.
If you have concerns about your child's vision, please see your child's pediatrician or contact the PeaceHealth Medical Group Ophthalmology Department in Eugene at 458-205-6257 to set up a time for an evaluation of your child's eyes and vision.
(This article appeared in The Register-Guard on June 28, 2012.)