What is InfantSEE?
InfantSEE is national health program with the intent of ensuring that an eye and vision assessment becomes an integral part of infant wellness care. Because vision is so important in a child’s development, these examinations are provided at no cost to infants between 6 and 12 mos of age. The program was started in 2005 with the support of Optometry Cares - The AOA Foundation and The Vision Care Institute™, LLC a Johnson & Johnson company.
InfantSEE examinations aim to identify eye conditions that would interfere with vision development or even be life threatening. Many of the eye conditions affecting young children have no symptoms that can be detected by a parent or at a well-baby exam. One in ten children may be at risk for eye or vision conditions, yet only 13% of mothers report taking children under age 2 to have an eye exam. Many eye conditions when detected early can be effectively treated, thus preventing vision impairment later in life.
What to expect at an InfantSEE Assessment
Dr. Pulsfus will check your baby’s eyes to make sure they are healthy and show no abnormal signs of refractive error (ie. glasses prescription). She uses a light called a retinoscope to check for nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. She also uses toys and other tools to make sure your baby’s eyes are aligned and work together. Your baby may have her eyes dilated to get a better look at the inside of the eye to check the optic nerve and retina.
When preparing for your appointment, it is best to select a time agreeable to your child’s schedule, avoiding nap time. Bring a bottle and a security toy to your baby’s exam to help keep her comfortable. Be prepared to be an active participant in the exam to show your baby the “games” are safe and fun.
Infant and Childhood Eye Conditions
Often times it is nearly impossible to tell when something is wrong with your child’s eyes. Many eye conditions have no outward appearing signs and often the child is not aware anything is out of the ordinary. One eye can often compensate for the other or the child thinks everyone sees as they do. Below are some conditions that can often be missed with standard vision screenings:
Hyperopia: Often called farsightedness, hyperopia is extremely common in young children. In small amounts, usually no visual compromise is present. Children can often focus through this prescription to make their vision clear. Problems arise with larger or uneven amounts of hyperopia which can cause eyestrain, problems with learning, and impaired vision development.
Astigmatism: Astigmatism is also a common condition in both children and adults alike. It is caused when the eye is not perfectly round, often likened to a football which has 2 curves. Because 2 curves focus light in different places, the result is blurry vision. Astigmatism often changes from infancy to childhood, but large amounts need to be corrected with glasses.
Myopia: Nearsightedness, or myopia, is uncommon in infants; however, the incidence is higher in premature babies. Myopia causes distance blur and is usually corrected with glasses. Myopia is often hereditary, frequently manifesting between 8 and 12 years of age.
Amblyopia: Commonly referred to as “lazy eye,” amblyopia results when the vision in one eye does not develop properly. This is most commonly caused by an eye turn or unequal prescriptions (refractive error) between the two eyes. Severe forms of amblyopia are caused by something blocking vision to an eye, like a congenital cataract or drooping eyelid. Mild forms of this condition are often difficult to diagnose since the child sees well out of the fellow eye. Treatment is very effective when diagnosed at early age.
Strabismus: Strabismus is another term for an eye turn. If one eye turns in or out, the vision in that eye will not develop properly. Because eye muscles are still developing, intermittent eye turns are not unusual up to 6 mos of age. If your child has a constant eye turn at any age, or continues to experience an intermittent eye turn by 12 mos, a visit to a pediatric vision specialist is recommended.
Congenital Cataract: Although rare, cataracts are not just found in elderly people. Infants can be born with a cataract in one or both eyes. They can vary in size and density but even a small cataract needs to be closely monitored to ensure no vision impairment will develop. This is one condition that can appear as a white pupil in photographs.
Retinoblastoma: Retinoblastoma is a rare cancer of the retina, or the inner lining of the eye. It is the third most common cancer in children, usually diagnosed before age 5. Untreated retinoblastoma is almost always fatal; therefore, early diagnosis and treatment are crucial in savings lives and preserving visual function. Symptoms may include a white pupil or problems with eye movements, such as an eye turn.