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: Pinkeye

First AidPinkeye (or conjunctivitis) is an inflammation of the white part of the eye and the inner eyelids. It can be caused by allergies, irritating substances, or infection from a virus or bacteria.

Some kinds of pinkeye go away on their own, but others require treatment with antibiotics. When pinkeye is caused by an infection, it can be spread easily from person to person.

Signs and Symptoms

  • discomfort or feeling like something is in the eye
  • redness of the eye and inner eyelid
  • watery or pus-like liquid seeping from the eye
  • lashes matted or stuck together upon waking up
  • itchiness and tearing (common with allergic pinkeye)

What to Do

  • Call your doctor, particularly for a newborn (treatment may include antibiotic drops or ointment).
  • Carefully clean the eye area with warm water and gauze or cotton balls.
  • Put cool compresses on the eye.
  • Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve discomfort (check instructions for correct amount).

Seek Medical Care

If Your Child:

  • shows no improvement in 2 or 3 days if treated, or a week if untreated
  • has eye redness that worsens
  • has increasing swelling of the eyelids
  • complains of severe pain
  • experiences any change in vision
  • shows sensitivity to light
  • has ear pain (pinkeye and ear infections can happen at the same time)

Think Prevention!

Wash hands well and often, especially after touching eyes. Don't allow sharing of washcloths, towels, and pillowcases. Talk to your doctor if itchy, watery, or red eyes are a frequent problem — allergies might be the cause.

If certain household things seem to irritate the eyes, try:

  • dusting and vacuuming often
  • closing windows and doors when pollen is heavy
  • keeping scented or irritating chemicals (like household cleaners) to a minimum
  • avoiding secondhand smoke

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