An interview with Dr. Louis Hochberg and a new parent and patient, Nancy A., on the importance of early childhood and adolescent preventative eye care.
Nancy A: Dr. Louis Hochberg, I recently had a baby girl and I wanted to know when I should bring her in for her first eye exam. I heard that babies don’t really need an eye exam, is that true?
Dr. Louis Hochberg: Hi, Nancy. First of all, congratulations! That’s great news! Let me begin by saying that what you have heard is not entirely correct. The American Optometric Association recommends that the first visit be at six months, because by then we can already get a good sense of overall retina health, and we want to catch and address problems early. Already by this age, we can test for serious eye conditions that can seriously affect the child’s vision, learning, and development later in life. This includes childhood amblyopia, which if untreated can cause permanent double vision later on. We also can and should check for vision issues such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.
The first few years of life involve significant and rapid developmental changes in the brain and body, including the eyes. We want to make sure that everything is working as it should be. This includes the basics, like checking for the ability to focus, cross-eyed or having a lazy eye. At Omnivision in Hamden, CT, we also want to check that cognitive and motor development is all normal. Often the first symptoms of developmental and neurological problems manifest in the eyes, and in the way that the eyes interact with the brain. Watching for these kind of issues is especially important in the presence of risk factors such as premature birth, cerebral palsy, or suspected developmental delays.
Nancy: Wow, so I’ll definitely be booking that appointment at six months. How often after that should my child be seeing you?
Dr. Louis Hochberg: After the six month visit, we typically recommend a visit at 3 years of age, and every 2 years afterwards. I say typically because, again, if there are any issues uncovered at six months, or preexisting risk factors for conditions we need to look for, we will want to see the child more regularly to monitor eye development more closely.
Nancy A: What if my child is found to have some kind of eye condition? What then?
Dr. Louis Hochberg: Given that you have no history of serious eye conditions in your family, and that the child had a healthy and normal birth, the likelihood of any serious problems occurring is pretty low. If we find anything, it’s most probably something minor that will be corrected through vision correction. Worst comes to worse, and we find something serious, the good news is that we found it early and can begin treatment early, resulting in better long-term results.
Nancy A: What do you mean by vision correction? Glasses?
Dr. Louis Hochberg: Essentially, yes. We provide a wide range of specialty optical products designed specifically for infants or children to correct things like nearsightedness and astigmatism. Depending on the condition and severity, this can mean pediatric frames or even contacts. We can also explore the options of vision therapy, ortho-k, and scleral lenses. But we’re getting far ahead of ourselves. Anything serious is very unlikely. Bring the little one in at six months and we’ll make sure.
Nancy A: Thanks doctor. I’ll be sure to do that.