My daughter's name is Nora. She is, of course, adorable. And since I am an eye doctor, I have been watching with interest how her eyes and vision develop since she was just minutes old. First she opened her eyes. Then she got better at moving them (but not necessarily together.) Finally, she developed a wide-eyed inquisitive way of looking at things that has not faded.
Since before she was born, my wife Cristina and I have done our very best to take care of her and made sure that she received all the care and attention that she needed. We have a wonderful pediatrician who has seen her many times. Fortunately, Nora has always been healthy (except for that first ear infection). She is a happy baby girl and she appears to be growing fast without any problems. But there still are some aspects of her eyes and vision that have not been checked fully.
Nora recently turned 7 months old. That means it is time for her first comprehensive eye and vision assessment. For the average baby, all the visual skills should be significantly developed by six months old. The American Optometric Association recommends the first eye exam at six months of age, then at three years of age and every year while in school. So with the help of my father and Cristina, Nora received her first eye exam.
Like I do with all infants, I first checked that she can see well out of each eye. I then made sure her eyes are straight and not drifting inward or outward. I checked to see if her eyes can turn inward the proper amount when she looks at an object or toy up close. I shined some bright lights in her eyes to make sure that her pupils react properly to light. They did.
By using a special flashlight called a retinoscope, I was able to determine if Nora had any refractive error (nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism). It turns out that she has a small amount of farsightedness, which is perfectly normal. Most commonly, the large amounts of refractive error that a baby may have tend to diminish over time (a process called emmetropization), but it is good to have a baseline measurement to see if the error is increasing, staying the same, or decreasing.
After I was convinced that Nora was seeing well and her eyes moved well for her age, it was time to check out the health of her eyes. I looked closely at all the parts of her eyes on the outside to make sure everything was healthy and working well. Then I sprayed eyedrops onto her eyes to enlarge her pupils to allow me to see inside. This is the same type of drop that we use for adults when we dilate their pupils, but the spray makes sure we get it in their tiny eyes without too much fuss.
The drops take 15 minutes or so to take effect, so we all went out in the waiting area. We passed the time by trying on some baby sunglasses, which were very cute on her. After the spray worked its magic, I had Cristina hold Nora and I examined very carefully all around the inside of Nora's eye to make sure all the nerves, blood vessels, and other parts of her eyes were healthy.
So now that Nora's eyes have a clean bill of health, I don't need to examine her again until she's three years old. And, really, she did great. She a had a good time playing with the toys, and I can sleep at night knowing that she's been thoroughly checked out.
If you have an infant at home between the ages of 6 and 12 months, the InfantSEE program will provide one evaluation like Nora's at no change. Call the office or visit InfantSEE.org for more information.
Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.