Thursday, May 3, 2012

Taking a Toddler to the Eye Doctor

Natalie needed to get an eye exam to check for uvetis due to her JRA.  Luckily, one of the few benefits of polyarticulate juvenile arthritis is that she is much less likely to have eye problems.  However, since she is so young, she might have eye problems that don't present with usual symptoms, so regular eye exams are necessary. 

Natalie has seen a lot of doctors in the last six months (her pediatrician many times, a physical therapist, a chiropractor, orthopedist, rhuematologist, dentist, tons of nurses, anesthesiologist for her joint injections, and now the ophthalmologist!)  All this exposure probably helped her some since she is getting used to doctors.  If they appointment hadn't crept up on me, I would have gotten us a book on going to the eye doctor.  I remember reading Arthur's Eyes by Marc Brown as a Kindergartener when I went for the first time and got my glasses.  Other than that I don't know  of any outstanding titles, though I turned up a Blue's Clues book with a quick Amazon search.

What is good about taking a child so  young to the eye doctor is that most of the tests are like games.  Natalie almost had fun.  She got to identify pictures she knew, like birthday cakes, airplanes, and butterflies.  She got to wear cool sunglasses.  The doctor used toys for her to get where he wanted, including a little monster finger puppet on a light. 

They allowed Natalie to sit on my lap for the whole visit.  She was most comfortable there.  The only downside to this was that I had William with me.  So, my first recommendation would be to not bring any other children with you who will need your attention.  You'll want to let your child getting the exam use your lap and thus you will be unable to do anything for the other child. 

Natalie needed a test called a split light test.  It is actually part of your regular visit.  But, it is one of the tests that require eye drops to dilate your eyes.  Instead of eye drops, a nurse sprayed a mist over her closed eyes.  Natalie does not like getting water in her face, so that already upset her, but when she opened her eyes, it stung a little.  So we had a bit of a freak out.  She wanted me to wash it off and I had to hold down her arms so she wouldn't rub her eyes.  This was the only bad part of the visit and it lasted many five minutes.  But, I was not told on the phone that they like to wait 30 minutes to let the eyes dilate!  Half an hour is a long time to entertain a toddler in a exam room.  Lucky for us, we had a snack and she was interested in some books from the waiting room she didn't have time to read before we went in.  So, my second recommendation if you are bringing a child to the eye doctor is to pack expecting to have to wait up to 30 minutes in the middle of the exam.  I was just whipping out the smartphone with Yo Gabba Gabba on Netflix when the doctor came back in.  This is another reason you don't want to bring another child with you, especially a younger one. 

The exam once her eyes were dilated with easy like the rest of it.  The doctor warned that her vision could be blurry for the rest of the day, so we cancelled out plans to go to the library.  Again, I didn't know that before hand, so I was lucky we didn't plan anything especially fun and that she wasn't upset about not going to the library.  Expect to go right home after the exam.  The doctor also said the dilation medicine makes some kids nap and others hyper.  Natalie was sleepy. 

The last thing I learned about bringing a toddler to the eye doctor is about actual toddler vision.  He said that most toddlers are actually slightly far sighted (that means they have trouble seeing close up).  Because Natalie's eyes were pretty much normal adult vision, that was an indicator to him that she will probably need glasses in the next few years for nearsightedness.  Where an average toddler's eyes will adjust to normal vision, Natalie's will probably over adjust making her nearsighted.  This was interesting to hear for me, but not shocking since I got glass when I was 5.  Does make me a bit sad though since we thought her vision was great.  So, I learned that even if your child's vision has been great so far (for example, your child recognizes you from way far away like Natalie can), that doesn't mean they won't need glass around the time they start school because the eye is still developing. 

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