Ophthalmology (Eye Care)

Many pediatric vision problems and eye diseases can be corrected if detected and treated early. When it comes to your child’s eyes, high-quality pediatric ophthalmology care is of the utmost importance. Pediatric eye problems are often very different from adult eye diseases and pediatric ophthalmologists (eye doctors who are also surgeons) are specially trained to manage and treat children's eye conditions.

Common Pediatric Eye Problems
  • amblyopia (lazy eye: with one weak eye and one strong one)
  • blocked tear ducts and defects (from the ducts not forming correctly)
  • glaucoma (damage to the optic nerve from a build-up of pressure in the eye)
  • cataract (a clouding of the eye’s lens)
  • eye injuries
  • ptosis (drooping eyelid)
  • refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism)
  • retinopathy of prematurity (a disease that occurs in premature babies and causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in the retina)
  • retinoblastoma (a type of tumor involving the retina)
  • retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and other retinal dystrophies (diseases that cause damage to the retina
  • strabismus (wandering eye or “cross eyes”)
When to Schedule Pediatric Eye Exams

Children whose parents or siblings have eye conditions, such as strabismus or amblyopia, are more likely to have these eye disorders themselves, even if they don't have obvious signs of pediatric eye problems.

If your child has a certain medical condition such as diabetes, or a genetic disease like neurofibromatosis, it's a good idea to have regular pediatric eye exams with a pediatric ophthalmologist.

Early signs of serious pediatric eye problems, which should be evaluated by a doctor, include:

  • poor vision
  • eye pain
  • changes in the shape or size of an eye
  • crossed or wandering eyes
  • abnormal appearance of the pupil of one or both eyes

Genetic conditions can often cause eye problems in children. In these cases, our pediatric ophthalmologists collaborate with multi-disciplinary Nemours teams who treat children with genetic syndromes.

If your child is healthy and has no known risk factors for pediatric eye problems, then age-appropriate screening examinations with your primary care provider should be sufficient. If further evaluations are indicated, your child can be referred to our ophthalmologists as needed.

First Aid: Eye Injuries

First Aid

Most eye injuries are minor, like getting soap in the eye or a speck of dirt under the eyelid. Others, like those that happen during sports activities, can be serious and require medical attention.

Signs and Symptoms

  • redness
  • stinging or burning
  • watering
  • sensitivity to light
  • blurred vision
  • swelling of the eyelids
  • discoloration around the eye

What to Do

If you think your child has a particle in the eye or a minor irritation, be sure to:

  • Wash your hands before touching the eye area.
  • Flush the eye with water as soon as possible:
    • Tilt the child's head over a basin or sink with the affected eye pointed down.
    • Gently pull down the lower lid.
    • Gently pour a steady stream of lukewarm water over the eye.
  • Flush the eye for up to 15 minutes, checking every 5 minutes to see if the foreign body has been flushed out.

Seek Medical Care

If Your Child Has:

  • been struck in the eye with a ball or other object
  • a red or irritated eye
  • eye discomfort
  • a swollen, red, or painful area around the eye or eyelid
  • an eye that's very sensitive to light

Seek Emergency Care Immediately

If Your Child Has:

  • trouble seeing
  • been exposed to chemicals
  • something embedded in the eye
  • severe eye pain
  • blood in the eye
  • nausea or vomiting after an eye injury

Think Prevention!

Kids who play sports should wear protective goggles or unbreakable glasses as needed. Keep chemicals and other potentially dangerous objects out of the reach of children.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: September 26, 2016