An Introduction to InfantSEE

9:46 PM

The first time I heard about InfantSEE I was still a student at the Southern College of Optometry.  One of my staff doctors, the lauded Dr. "Bubba" Steele, is a co-founder of the program.  Training with Dr. Steele was a huge asset to my career, and I can't express enough what a huge benefit it was that I was able to work under both him and Dr. W.C. Maples, two of the most well-known names in Pediatric Optometry.  But to get back on track, the InfantSEE program is a great initiative dedicated towards promoting ocular health for infants between 6 months and a year old.  Providers in the InfantSEE program offer FREE eye exams for infants, so every new parent should consider finding a provider in their area!

Infants will readily follow lights, so checking eye muscle movement and alignment is relatively easy for your doctor.  To get a complete look at the back of the eye, dilation will be needed.  Rest assured, there will be no damage to your child's eyes from these drops.  Photo from The Eye Care Center in Royal Falls, Virginia.  

Why is an infant exam important?
Most children don't get visual screenings until they enter kindergarten, but the eyes are developing from the time your child opens them for the first time.  Remember, the eyes have to transfer information to the brain in order for you to see, so there are a multitude of important connections developing in newborns. The retinal photoreceptors respond to light, the optic nerve delivers this information to the brain, and the brain processes and interprets the information.  Not to mention the eye muscles that have to work together for eye movements and binocular vision (using both eyes together, creating depth perception).   If there is any breakdown in the flow of information, permanent vision loss results.  Detecting problems early (WAY before your child is being asked to learn to read) is obviously essential!

Retinoblastoma is a dangerous cancer that quickly passes
from the eye to the brain.  It can best be detected with
a dilated eye exam.
What conditions will be screened for?

  • Retinoblastoma or other ocular tumors
  • Congenital cataracts.  Yes, you can be born with cataracts!  If you notice a white reflection in photos of your child's eyes, take them to a doctor immediately.  A red reflex is normal, but a white reflex could be evidence of cataracts or even more dangerous cancerous growths.
  • Strabismus (Eye Turns)  Sometimes a child's eyes can look like they are turning, but are actually normally aligned due to the poorly developed nasal bridge of an infant.  Your eye doctor will be able to differentiate a real eye turn from a "pseudo" strabismus.
  • Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) In order to see depth, both eyes have to work together equally.  If prescriptions are greatly different between the eyes or an eye turn exists, the child will ignore that eye's blurry image.  The risk is that the brain connections to that eye will NEVER develop.  That means even with the best pair of glasses or contact lenses, if this condition is not caught early the child will NEVER have good vision out of the "lazy" eye.  The earlier amblyopia is caught, the better chance of getting the vision of the lazy eye back to normal.
Leukocoria is an ominous white reflex indicating a vision threatening (and sometimes life threatening) ocular condition.

These are just a few of the main conditions being screened for, but you can tell from the list above how important detection of these problems can be!

Finding an InfantSEE Doctor
If you go to their website, you can search for a provider by zip code.  Then just contact the doctor's office and schedule your FREE exam.  I would allot around 30 minutes for the appointment.  Your doctor may want to dilate your child's eyes, which the child may not especially like, but lets the doctor fully check the eye's health. It's a great idea to schedule the appointment around nap time.  Believe it or not, if your child is sleepy it is really a lot easier for the doctor to look into the eye!  

In the future I plan to devote another post to new OD's joining InfantSEE.  I just signed up today and it was unbelievably fast and easy!  More information to come soon.

PS:  Check out my good friend's interview with her local newspaper.  The next generation of ODs are devoted to getting the word out about children's vision!

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