Detecting vision problems – as early as infancy – is very important, UAB Dr. Tamara Oechslin said.
That was the goal on April 10, as Oechslin, Dr. Becky Luu, and UAB fourth-year optometry clinicians checked the eyesight, eye alignment, refractive error and ocular health of six babies, at no charge to the babies’ families. The exams were part of InfantSEE, a public health program in optometry designed to ensure that eye and vision care become an essential part of infant wellness to improve a child’s quality of life.
The comprehensive, dilated vision exams were performed by Oechslin, pediatric resident Luu and three optometry interns at UAB Eye Care’s Pediatric Optometry Service in Birmingham.
“Our No. 1 diagnosis was extreme cuteness,” said Oechslin, with a smile, “but the mission of this program is very important. We want the community to know the importance of early eye care.” One baby seen was referred to a pediatric ophthalmologist for further examination, and two others will be returning for follow-up care.
“A baby’s visual system is not fully developed at birth,” she said. “It grows and develops throughout the first few months of life, and we see a lot of changes in children’s vision in the first few years. We want to identify current or potential vision problems to ensure infants’ eyes are healthy and their vision is properly developing.”
Important milestones such as crawling, reaching for toys, feeding and balancing depend on good vision. If a baby does not meet developmental milestones, a pediatrician should recommend a vision appointment. Identifying risk factors for issues such as lazy eye is crucial, allowing for early treatment and the best possible outcome.
“By the time a baby is six months old, he should be able to look at an object, watch it move, and reach out to grab it,” Oechslin said. “Babies love contrast and shapes – by using our special equipment and expertise, we are able to assess whether they have age-normal vision. This dilated exam makes sure they are on track.”
Oechslin recommends parents take notice of their child’s eyes and consider testing an infant’s vision if they see an eye turn, a white pupil, or have a family history of eye problems. Additionally, they should consider an eye exam if their child is not meeting typical developmental milestones, including
- By 6 months, an infant should be able to reach for and follow objects or people, as well as return a smile.
- By 9 months, an infant should be able to imitate others using gestures and facial expressions to communicate, grasp small objects with his or her whole hand, and balance well enough to sit upright without support.
- By 12 months, an infant should be able to pick up objects between his or her finger and thumb, and should begin exploring their environment by crawling, pulling up on objects to stand with support, and walk around furniture.
InfantSEE exams can be scheduled any day of the year for babies who are between six and twelve months of age. More information, including finding a participating pediatric optometrist in your area, can be found on the InfantSEE website.