Sierra Eye Associates is proud to have two ophthalmologists in Northern Nevada with fellowship training in Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (eye misalignment): L. Alan Johnson, M.D. and Pauline Hong M.D.
Why a pediatric ophthalmologist?
A pediatric ophthalmologist is a medical doctor, trained in the specialty of ophthalmology and in the subspecialty of pediatric ophthalmology and strabismus (misalignment of the eyes). Many pediatric ophthalmologists restrict their practice to children or adults with related problems and thus are particularly qualified to treat pediatric vision problems.
Ophthalmologists are medical doctors (MDs) who have had four years of medical school, one year of internship training in a hospital, and three years of residency training in ophthalmology. They are equipped to provide total eye care: they perform complete eye examinations and fit eye glasses; prescribe medications; and perform all types of laser and incisional eye surgery. Pediatric ophthalmologists have chosen to specialize in eye disorders unique to infants, children and adolescents including inherited eye diseases, amblyopia, strabismus (wandering eyes), and refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism). Subspecialty training in pediatric ophthalmology requires one year of fellowship.
Children’s eyes and vision are still developing after birth, so many of the diseases that affect their eyes can have a life-long impact if untreated. Pediatric ophthalmology evolved over the past 30 years in response to the exponential growth of information about children’s eye problems and advances in surgical and non-surgical techniques to address those problems. In addition, as part of their training, pediatric ophthalmologists learn how to examine a frightened or uncooperative child in a manner which is non threatening and is effective in obtaining the most information about that child’s vision. In this way a more accurate and complete diagnosis and treatment plan can be achieved.
Thus a pediatric ophthalmologist is specifically trained to diagnose and treat children with eye and vision problems. Their training and expertise uniquely qualify them to protect a child’s visual future.
Dr. Alan Johnson and Dr. Pauline Hong specialize in Pediatric Ophthalmology. Their areas of expertise include surgical correction for strabismus (wandering eyes), diagnosis and treatment for amblyopia, blocked tear ducts, congenital eye diseases, and eye examinations and glasses for children.
What is a “lazy eye”?
Amblyopia, the medical term for “lazy eye” is reduced vision in an eye that can not be corrected by glasses and which has no other ocular cause (for example a scar in the eye). Many people will call an eye lazy because the lid droops or the eye wanders but these are actually distinct conditions. An amblyopic eye often appears perfectly normal, so it is often detected only through vision screening. In childhood, the connections between the eyes and the brain are just developing. The brain must learn how to put together information from the two eyes to make one picture. If the image from one eye is clear and the other blurry, or if the eyes are crossed and send two different pictures, the brain will choose to ignore the pictures being sent by one eye. When the brain consistently ignores information being sent by an eye, that eye will become weak, just as an arm, which has been in a cast, will not have equal strength to the fellow arm. Amblyopia is treatable until the age of 8 or 9 years–the age at which visual maturation is thought to be developmentally complete. Amblyopia is treated by forcing the child’s brain to use the weaker eye–this can be achieved by wearing a patch over the stronger eye, or blurring the vision in the stronger eye with glasses or eye drops. The predisposing conditions also require correction such as glasses or surgery.
What causes strabismus (eye misalignment)?
The answer is not really known. Probably it is a combination of genetic and environmental influences. Misalignment of the eyes may present as one eye appearing to look straight ahead and the other eye pointing inward, outward, upward, or downward. When a child’s eyes cross or one eye wanders, there often is loss of depth perception because the eyes are not working together. The sooner these conditions are treated, the more likely that this depth perception can be regained. The most common age for strabismus to be present is between age 2 and 4 years, although some children are born with strabismus and in others it may not be apparent until the child is older. Treatment of strabismus often requires the use of glasses, sometimes surgery, and rarely exercises. Often, amblyopia is also present which must be treated as well. Strabismus does not usually correct itself.
When should my child have a complete eye examination?
Ideally, all children should have a complete, dilated, ocular examination between the ages of 2 and 3. Unfortunately, many insurance companies will not pay for a routine examination if there is no problem found. So many parents and pediatricians rely on the vision screenings provided by local organizations. A vision screening is not a substitute for a complete examination. If there is any suspicion that the child is having difficulty seeing or has strabismus or amblyopia, the child should be examined as soon as possible. Even infants can have a complete examination so no child is too young to be examined.
Amblyopia affects 1 out of 20 children. It is the most common cause of visual loss in young people (more than eye disease and trauma combined).
Strabismus (eye misalignment) affects 1 out of 20 children. It occurs equally in boys and girls. Adults who develop strabismus usually will see double.
Glasses are prescribed for children to treat amblyopia and strabismus, and also to correct blurred vision. Glasses prescribed for blurred vision alone are simply aids to improve vision and the eyes will not be damaged if the glasses are not worn.