Over 160 ophthalmologists, optometrists and primary care personnel gathered at the Instituto de Microcirugía Ocular in Barcelona on Saturday, 17 May, for the Paediatric and/or strabismic patient assessment course.
Organised by IMO’s Paediatric Ophthalmology, Strabismus and Neuro-Ophthalmology and Optometry and Refraction Departments, the event highlighted the importance of cooperation between specialists to develop a comprehensive approach to the patient and improve the early detection of the main childhood eye diseases.
Vision that is not gained during childhood cannot be recovered during adulthood
One of the most prevalent disorders is amblyopia, also known as “lazy eye”, which affects 4% of school-age children. It is a condition that usually develops before the age of 6 and can be treated up to the age of 8 or 9, a highly sensitive time, in which vision completes its development. Because of this, “the earlier the diagnosis, the simpler and more effective it is to treat and the better the prognosis, as we have a greater margin in which to act," explains Dra. Ana Wert, a paediatric ophthalmologist at IMO and the course coordinator. In this regard, it should be noted that vision that is not gained during childhood cannot be recovered during adulthood.
Hence “the vital importance of the moment of diagnosis, as early as possible,” concludes the doctor. With this in mind, after an initial examination at birth to rule out any congenital defects, it is recommended to give the infant an eye examination at the age of three, a key period in vision development and, thereafter, annual checks-ups until the age of 10 and every two years until the age of 16.
According to Elena Núñez, an IMO optometrist and organiser of the course, “there are three types of professional that can perform these checks: ophthalmologists or paediatricians, primary care nurses and opticians or optometrists.”
Both the simplest and most complex cases can benefit from the comprehensive approach that multidisciplinary cooperation provides
Cooperation between different eye health professionals is, therefore, essential for a comprehensive and effective approach. As highlighted by IMO specialists on the course, “it is very rewarding to work closely with opticians, who are usually the first point of contact with the patient, to carry out close monitoring not only of the simplest cases, but also of those that are of greater complexity.” It is, therefore, imperative that the staff in these centres receive specialised training to enable them to correctly examine paediatric and/or strabismic patients.
“Knowing and following certain protocols that, step by step, provide the information necessary to distinguish the normal from the pathological, and, thus, understand when to refer a patient to an ophthalmologist and with what degree of urgency is key to removing the “fear” of dealing with children and performing a paediatric eye examination,” concludes Dr Wert. The ultimate goal is to ensure that children undergo regular eye examinations, even without showing symptoms, to promote early diagnosis and reduce the percentage of hidden disorders, which stands at 16%, according to IMO Foundation.
In this regard, the specialists, at the conclusion of the course, agreed that awareness and multidisciplinary cooperation are two basic aspects, after discussing the results of tests carried out in paediatric optometry and ophthalmology consultation rooms, the main childhood eye disorders and their treatments, with special interest in amblyopia and strabismus, optical correction with glasses or contact lenses and, finally the genetics of eye diseases, which is key for patients to find out whether their family history predisposes them to suffer from certain diseases and transmit them to their offspring.