Indy eye specialists say don't wait on kids' vision problems
Julie Dilts reads with her son, Asher, who had surgery to correct an eye misalignment. (Photo by Jonathan Scott)
On the advice of highly rated pediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Gavin Roberts, Indianapolis member Julie Dilts’ son Asher began wearing a patch over his left eye at age 3, covering it four hours daily to force the use of his weaker right eye.
Roberts diagnosed Asher with amblyopia, sometimes referred to as “lazy eye,” which diminishes one eye’s ability to see details, and strabismus, or ocular misalignment. Vision in Asher’s right eye improved markedly over the two years he wore a patch. In March, Roberts, who practices at highly rated Midwest Eye Institute in Greenwood and Indianapolis, performed a 30-minute eye muscle surgery to correct the eye’s misalignment. “It could not have gone better,” Dilts says. Surgery cost a health insurance-adjusted rate of about $6,800, of which Dilts paid $1,128 out of pocket, including her $500 deductible.
Experts caution parents not to put off taking their children to an eye care provider when vision problems surface because delaying treatment while eyes and brains develop can lead to long-term consequences. Providers recommend seeing an eye doctor with experience treating children such as one with a family-centered practice or a pediatric ophthalmologist or optometrist.
As the brain matures, vision loss from amblyopia becomes permanent,” says Dr. Daniel Neely, a highly rated pediatric ophthalmologist at Indianapolis-based Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. He charges $140 to $343 for new patient consults depending upon complexity. Vision insurance typically covers routine eye exams with a small copay, while health insurance covers visits when providers diagnose or treat medical eye problems such as strabismus and amblyopia. Neely says amblyopia can be irreversible if not treated by age 7.
Though Asher, now 5, still needs glasses for farsightedness in both eyes, his right eye now works well with the left, which helps with depth perception, coordination and tracking words on a page. “The lightbulb has clicked on and he’s learned to read,” Dilts says.
Parents should watch for warning signs their child’s eyes aren’t developing properly, says Melissa Frost, an optometrist who sees primarily kids at Midwest Eye Institute. Signs include eyes that fail to align well in babies more than 4 months old, and frequent squinting, redness or excessive clumsiness in toddlers and schoolaged children, says Frost, who charges about $100 for exams.
Providers differ on whether children need routine eye exams in the absence of a suspected problem, failed vision screening, or family history of eye issues. But because children’s eye problems often remain difficult for parents to detect, at a minimum, experts recommend getting a child’s vision screened by their pediatrician or another properly trained health provider by 6 months to 1 year of age, then annually beginning at 3 and a half.
Experts say finding the right fit in a provider can improve a child’s vision outlook, and this holds true for glasses, too. Look for a warranty and review the details since kids routinely break glasses, adds Lana Capshaw, a child-focused optician who practices at InSight Optical in Carmel.
The shop sells a wide variety of children’s frames and lenses from about $200 to $300 with a one-year warranty that covers everything but theft or loss. In addition, she recommends letting kids pick frames they like from an optician experienced in fitting children’s glasses. “Kids won’t wear their glasses if they’re not fitted right. Period,” Capshaw says.