Brittany Elswick began to notice odd behavior from her son Owen, 5, when he was 3 years old. He started having mood swings, and Elswick couldn’t find the root of the issue on her own. It was only until Owen failed a vision screening at school that she realized her son was experiencing vision problems.
“We took him to get checked and they didn't really think it was much, so they said to wait until the next year. So then, when he was 4, he got checked again in preschool, and we saw how it got worse,” Elswick said.
Owen had very high astigmatism, which left untreated could lead to amblyopia (lazy eye). With amblyopia, the prescription in the eyes is so high that the brain and eye stop communicating with each other causing blurry vision and decreasing potential for the best vision a person can achieve, even with glasses.
Because of her son’s young age, Elswick struggled with finding an eye doctor in the area who would accept Owen as a new patient unless she went down to the Columbus area. Fortunately, that did not end up being the case.
Ohio Eye Associates in Mansfield was one of the only locations in the area taking patients as young as Owen. Elswick met with optometrist Haina Patel, OD, F.A.A.O., who diagnosed Owen’s high astigmatism.
Astigmatism is caused by an irregularity in the front curvature of the eye. It is common for young children to have astigmatism. Almost a quarter of young children aged 6 to 12 months have astigmatism, however, most children outgrow it as their eyes develop.
In cases like Owen’s, however, he required glasses to correct his vision. According to Patel, because children have adaptable developing brains (neuroplasticity), by wearing the correct glasses prescription alone and/or initiating treatment such as patching or vision therapy, children can re-establish communication between the brain and the eye and improve the potential level of vision they achieve with glasses.
“After his first visit, we prescribed glasses for Owen, and he was to keep them on all the time just so that we could clear up his vision,” Patel said.
Since they can’t always rely on children to tell them which choice is better on an eye test, an eye doctor will do a comprehensive pediatric eye examination which has several different modifications compared to an eye test for an adult.
“We rely a lot more on our objective measurements of a child's eyes to determine a glasses prescription using techniques such as retinoscopy. We also use dilation drops to relax the eye’s focusing system so that the most accurate eyeglass prescription can be determined for the child,” Patel said.
Patel achieved 20/40 vision in Owen’s right eye and 20/60 in his left eye in the beginning. Although he still experienced blurriness while wearing his glasses, Owen’s vision improved tremendously. Two months after that first initial appointment he had 20/30 vision in the right eye and 20/25 in the left eye. And when Patel saw him most recently in June, Owen had perfect 20/20 vision with his new glasses.
“The earlier that we catch these vision problems in children, especially if they've got a very high amount of nearsightedness or farsightedness, the more likely we are to initiate treatment and to achieve the best potential vision for them,” Patel said.
Before his recent checkup, Owen had to go every three months to get checked to see if the glasses were helping or if he needed to start using other methods. Now, with the success of the glasses, Owen will only have to go back to Ohio Eye once a year for a checkup.
Along with his vision, Owen’s mood also improved.
“He's just super happy. He will keep his glasses on all the time. If he could, he would wear them in the shower and to bed,” Elswick said.
Elswick expressed her gratitude toward Patel for helping her family through the process and figuring out what Owen needed so he could go on and develop as a child without hindrance.
“I felt terrible because I didn't know he had a problem. So, as a mom, not knowing that made me feel like the worst,” Elswick said. “But finally getting it figured out and him just being so happy to be able to see makes me feel so good. And I hope that progress gets better.”
At Ohio Eye Associates, the eye professionals work together to create a circle of care that includes eye exams, lens fittings, treatment of eye diseases, surgeries and postoperative care. Patients have experts dedicated to achieving the best outcomes at each step in their eye care journey. Call 419-614-0075 to make an appointment.