When our son was born, he affectionately earned the nickname Popeye because he came out of the womb winking. As first-time parents, we didn’t think much of it when one lid would droop when he got sleepy. However, early on at one of our regular well checks, our pediatrician noticed his condition. He referred us to a pediatric ophthalmologist.
Of course, we made the mistake of googling what a droopy eyelid could cause. The list went from minor to severe medical concerns. We have since learned to avoid Dr. Google and leave the diagnosis to the medical professionals.
The ophthalmologist found that our son had amblyopia.
According to the National Eye Institute Amblyopia is when the vision in one of the eyes is reduced because the eye and the brain are not working together properly. The eye itself looks normal, but it is not being used normally because the brain is favoring the other eye. This condition is also sometimes called a lazy eye. In our son’s case, the muscle that pulls the eyelid up was not as strong causing his eye to have decreased vision and therefore become lazy.
We left the doctor that day with tiny little eye patches to patch his good eye and tiny sunglasses after they dilated his eyes. I hopped into the car and burst into tears as I called my husband and told him the news. Our precious son would need eye therapy and a possible surgery later on to correct his eyelid muscle.
After a year of patching with no significant improvement, the ophthalmologist recommended glasses for our 2-year-old son. I know I rolled my eyes at the thought of trying to keep glasses on a busy 2-year-old boy. The doctor assured me that most kids needing corrective lenses wanted to wear them because they could see better. Sure enough, my son wore them without a single complaint, and we got used to our little guy’s new look. His glasses even glowed in the dark!
How do you know if your child needs glasses?
Based on government recommendation, all children should receive an eye exam by their primary care physician at their 6-month and 3-year well visit checks. Then, by state law, all children entering kindergarten must have an eye exam. If you are concerned, talk with your primary care physician who can refer you to a pediatric optometrist or ophthalmologist.
With the increased early intervention screening, the percentage of children wearing glasses at an early age has increased significantly. According to the CDC in 2016, 36.2% of girls ages 6-16 wore glasses while 29.1% of boys age 6-16 wore glasses.
What you should know
Not all amblyopia or vision cases are the same. We were surprised to find out our oldest daughter also had amblyopia during her required pre-kindergarten check-up. Her case was corrected with glasses, no vision therapy required.
Advocate for your child’s care. Over the tenure of care, our favorite ophthalmologist left the area and our son’s case was transferred to a new ophthalmologist who unnecessarily scared us with a misdiagnosis. If you do not feel comfortable with the care you receive, get a second opinion. Find a new practitioner if needed.
There are lots of options in eyewear these days. You can now find glasses that glow in the dark, have magnetized accessories and bend but don’t break. You can find cute eye patches on sites like Etsy and Amazon as well.
Glasses usually come with a warranty. When a 2-year-old wears glasses you learn that if you return all the pieces to the manufacturer, generally they will replace them within the warranty window. Ask your eye care provider about the warranty!
Vision can be tested with all sorts of different technology. Your child does not need to be able to read letters on a screen. They use a variety of tests including computer technology as well as symbols (instead of letters) to help assess a child’s vision.
Even though our son’s vision diagnosis was disconcerting on the onset, we are thankful for the care both our children receive locally.