Children’s Eye Care: Testing for Amblyopia

Since Gavin was little, we have been concerned about the possibility of him developing lazy eye. It was a cause for concern because both his uncle and father have lazy eye. Hubby’s lazy eye was detected late and as a result it was not corrected. The information back then was that lazy eye had to be discovered early enough to take the appropriate intervention measures. According to the Children’s Vision Information Network, this is a misconception – children over the age of 6 years can still be treated for amblyopia (lazy eye). In fact, there is even a case of a 66 year old grandmother getting her lazy eye treated successfully.

The Children’s Vision Information Network advise getting your child’s eyes tested as early as possible – at the very least by the age of three. This is because any visual impairment that goes undetected can affect your child’s learning ability and future success in any areas that require clear vision, good hand-eye coordination and strong depth perception. Young children cannot tell you that they have a problem with their vision (they may not even be aware of it) and it can be quite difficult for parents to recognise that their children hae a vision impairment.

Last year, after Gavin turned three, we got a referral to an eye specialist to get Gavin’s eyes checked. The doctor scheduled us for a second appointment where he arranged for some eyedrops to be put into Gavin’s eyes. They were supposed to “open” his eyes so the optometrist could check his eyes properly. Unfortunately, the eyedrops caused Gavin a lot of discomfort and he had to have them reapplied several times. By the time we got to the optometrist, Gavin was completely uncooperative and we didn’t succeed in getting his eyes tested. The optometrist advised us to come back again in 6 months for another test.

I honestly don’t know what the purpose the application of the eyedrops served because it did not appear to have done anything for the eye test. All it did was create an aversion for eye testing in Gavin. So recently, when I tried to take him to an optometrist to test his eyes again, I didn’t bother going back to the eye specialist for the drops. We happened to be in Midvalley and the optometrist I tried to see wasn’t going to be in until much later so we ended up in ISEC (the International Specialist Eye Center).

We got an appointment for Dr Choong Yee Fong who is a Consultant Ophthalmologist & Eye Surgeon, and Paediatric Ophthalmologist. After our horrifying experience trying to get Gavin’s cooperation to test his eyes the previous time, I figured it was worthwhile getting an eye specialist who was experienced with children. I am glad to say that he did not disappoint. In fact, I was so impressed that I would recommend anyone to take their children to get their eyes checked by him. He handled Gavin so smoothly that the eye check-up was completely painless and over within minutes.

Dr Choong’s experience with children was evident right from the start. He picked up Gavin’s interest (Thomas and Friends) and started asking him about the trains to distract him while he checked and tested his eyes. Gavin was rambling away and completely oblivious to the fact that he hates getting his eyes tested.

Dr Choong’s eye chart is child friendly as well. Instead of the usual letters and numbers, he’s got pictures. Even though Gavin can recognise letters and numbers, I think identifying pictures is a lot less stressful. For a child getting their eyes tested possibly for the first time, the whole experience is already daunting enough without having to be tested to see if they can remember their alphabets and numbers. We all know that performance decreases with stress so even if a child can read alphabets and numbers, he might struggle to do so in such an environment.

Gavin’s vision is 20-20. Whatever squint we thought we saw was obviously imagined because his eyes have equal vision. The cause of lazy eye is usually due to having a disparity in vision between the two eyes. Because the weaker eye cannot see as well, the brain suppresses the input from the lazy eye and only uses the sensory input from the good eye. Over time, this makes the lazy eye worse. Since Gavin has no difference in vision between both eyes, it is unlikely that he will ever develop lazy eye. What a relief…

For more information about amblyopia, please refer to the article on Children’s Vision Information Network.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

6 thoughts on “Children’s Eye Care: Testing for Amblyopia

    1. Alice – the appointment cost us RM120 (which is about how much it cost us to see the last eye specialist who put the eye drops in Gavin’s eyes). When we got in, Gavin told Dr Choong that the last doctor put in eyedrops that hurt his eyes, so Dr Choong assured him there would be no need for eyedrops this time. The last doctor said the eyedrops were to open up the eyes so that they could see into the eyes better but neither he nor the optometrist we saw even looked into Gavin’s eyes so I don’t know why he needed them in the first place.

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  1. I have a lazy eye myself (the right eye), i am worried that my baby boy will inherit what I have (because he got obvious eye size gap, my bro-in-law was concerned that it might be an effect of lazy eye), i will definitely want to visit Dr Chong, when he reaches 3 yrs old.

    Thanks a lot for sharing.

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    1. PC – yeah, we were worried too because both my husband and brother have lazy eye so it’s in both sides of the family. I’ll be checking my younger son next year, too.

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  2. shenli

    i tried to make an appointment with Dr Choong for my 4Y daughter. According to them, since she hasn’t done any eye check b4 at all, we need to make appointment to see the optometrist (to check for short sightedness) first then only see Dr Choong to check for eye condition. Hmm… i tot Dr Choong would cover all the checking but apparently no. With the optometrist, the eyedrops may be necessary as well. Hence, i am puzzled and confused over the difference with what you’ve claimed. why gavin need not check on the eyesight?

    also, total duration for the whole thing whould be approx 2 hrs!

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    1. Hi Mel,

      Hmmm… That’s odd. I’m trying to remember what happened when I made the appointment. Gavin has had his eyes checked before – same thing like you described. He had to get the drops and see an optometrist. But of course, he was so uncooperative that we didn’t get anything done. So the optometrist said try again in six months. That was when I ended up going to the specialist eye center. I made the appointment in person because we happened to be there and they never said anything about needing to see an optometrist first.

      If your daughter has to do what Gavin did the first time – the eye drops and check up, then yes it does take a long time. They have to keep putting the eye drops until the eyes dilate sufficiently. It’s quite traumatic – at least it was for Gavin. I think he was so traumatised that’s why he was so uncooperative when we finally got to the optometrist. Personally, it was a real waste of time for us because we achieved nothing in the end.

      The appointment with Dr Choong required nothing. We went there, waited for our turn. When we got in, he chatted with Gavin, asked him to look at the pictures on the board and we were done in no time. I mentioned wanting to check Gareth’s eyes too, and he said, come back in a year’s time and we’ll review Gavin’s eyes and check Gareth’s eyes at the same time.

      Not sure why you got the run-around…

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