Parents should also include a visit to an optometrist among their baby’s first-year medical visits.
By HOWARD DUKES
South Bend Tribune Staff Writer
7:29 p.m. EDT, July 24, 2011
Ask parents if they took their infants to the doctor, and the doctor who comes to mind is a pediatrician.
Courtney Koszyk said parents should also include a visit to an optometrist among their baby’s first-year medical visits.
Koszyk is the mother of Jordan Koszyk. Jordan, who will be a first-grader at Bittersweet Elementary School in the fall, has a condition known as refractive amblyopia. The condition, also known as lazy eye, is caused when one eye is more nearsighted or farsighted than the other.
Dr. Linnea Robbins-Winters, the optometrist who discovered and treated Jordan’s refractive amblyopia, said that one in 10 children is at risk for having an unknown eye and vision problem.
These problems can go undiscovered until the child enters school, according to Robbins-Winters, an optometrist at Eye Care Associates of Michiana.
The condition is harder to correct when a child is older.
Jordan’s condition was discovered because of the InfantSEE program.
InfantSEE was started by the American Optometric Association’s charity, the AOA Foundation. The program is also supported by the Vision Care Institute and Johnson & Johnson.
The InfantSEE program provides free comprehensive eye and vision assessments to infants between the ages of 6 months and 12 months. Robbins-Winters has been a participant in InfantSEE since the program started in 2005.
Robbins-Winters said the infants receive an in-depth assessment.
“We’re checking eye motility – movement of the eye,” Robbins-Winters said. “We’re looking for signs of lazy eye and we’re looking for refractive error, which would be nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism.”
Robbins-Winters also said optometrists check how well the eyes work together and they also look for potential problems.
Koszyk said Jordan was 10 months old when Winters-Robbins did the assessment.
“At that time, I could tell that one eye was significantly weaker than the other eye,” Robbins-Winters said. “If she hadn’t been diagnosed at that early point, she would not have nearly the visual acuity that she does right now.”
Jordan’s treatment involved wearing glasses and patching therapy, according to Robbins-Winters.
Patching therapy involves wearing a patch over the stronger eye to force the weaker eye to work.
Eventually, the weaker eye becomes stronger, and doctors will be able to reduce and eventually end the patching therapy, according to Robbins-Winters.
“Most children are actually done patching by the age of 8,” Robbins-Winters said. “But if (the condition) is caught late, we may have to patch quite a bit longer.”
Jordan is right on schedule, according to her mother and Robbins-Winters.
The doctor ended the patching therapy and is monitoring the strength of the eye to ensure that Jordan maintains the improvement in her vision.
Children with lazy eye receive prescriptions for glasses at a very young age. How do children who are 2 or 3 years old deal with wearing glasses? How does an active toddler manage to keep the glasses on without breaking or losing them? Are they reluctant to wear glasses? That is often a problem with school-aged children.
Children such as Jordan handle wearing glasses quite well, Robbins-Winters said. They associate the glasses with being able to see, and are often motivated to take care of them, the doctor said.
“That toddler knows that when they put those glasses on that their world is clearer,” Robbins-Winters said. “They didn’t know that it was supposed to be clear so they’re not going to complain.
“But once you give them the tools they need to see better, they will accept them and wear them.”