Children Need Specialized Eye Care

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by Audrey Madigan


Your child is having difficulty reading or learning. He may have struggled with a vision screening exam or even worse, surgery or medical treatment is needed as a result of an illness affecting your child’s eyes. Who do you turn to for help?

Your pediatrician may refer you to a pediatric ophthalmologist. Why a pediatric ophthalmologist and not one who treats adults? Because children are not little adults and should not be treated the same way. Unlike adults, children’s bodies are still growing. Even their eyes. 

Brain cells that control vision continue to develop throughout the first decade of a child’s life. As a result, disorders that may have little effect on an adult’s vision can have a profound or life-long effect on a child’s ability to see. There are also some illnesses only seen in children. Other problems may not be exclusive to children, but may affect children differently. A pediatric ophthalmologist is trained to recognize and manage eye disorders and diseases in children from birth to adolescence.

Not only are children’s bodies different from adults, they also vary in their ability to communicate. Children frequently cannot speak or are so sick or frightened they choose not to speak. As a result, they are not able to say what is bothering them or answer medical questions to help identify problems. Pediatric ophthalmologists are trained to assess a child’s non-verbal response and expressions to make an accurate diagnosis.

Pediatric ophthalmologists can diagnose, treat and manage all children’s eye problems. They are medical doctors who have had special training in the medical and surgical treatment of children’s eyes. Because pediatric ophthalmologists only treat children, they know what children need. Some of the services they provide are:

  • Eye exams
  • Prescriptions for glasses or contact lenses
  • Diagnosis and treatment of eye infections, eye inflammation or problems caused by conditions such as diabetes or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
  • Surgery for problems such as weak blocked tear ducts, cataracts, droopy eyelids or eye misalignment

If your pediatrician recommends your child see a pediatric ophthalmologist, take comfort in knowing you are going to someone who has the widest range of treatment options, the most comprehensive training and the greatest expertise in treating children’s eyes.

East Tennessee Children’s Hospital has two board-certified, fellowship-trained pediatric ophthalmologists: Gary Gitschlag, M.D., and Allyson D. Schmitt, M.D.

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