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Contact Lenses Often Prescribed For Infants With Serious Eye Problems

Monday, December 28, 2009 Medical PDA News J E 4
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LOS ANGELES, Dec. 28 Infants as young as one-month-old are prescribed contact lenses at pediatric eye surgery centers so their visual system will develop correctly. Infants may be fitted for contacts if they have had cataract surgery, need extremely high-strength prescription glasses, or have very different prescriptions for the two eyes.

According to Dr. Natalia Uribe, who directs the Contact Lens Program in The Vision Center at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, "The brain's visual system is not fully mature until about age eight. It is critical that infants and very young children with eye problems have their sight corrected so the visual pathway develops properly. Otherwise it may not be possible for them to enjoy normal vision as an adult."

Dr. Uribe, an optometrist, said her clinic is growing and will treat more than 700 young patients this year, making it one of the largest centers in the nation. She said more infants are being diagnosed with major eye problems due to better screening and to the higher rate of survival among extremely preterm infants.

Premature infants are at risk for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a disease affecting the blood vessels feeding the retina and for other eye problems. Medical studies have shown that approximately 20 percent of all premature babies will develop some form of strabismus (crossed eyes), amblyopia (lazy eye) or serious refractive error (require glasses) by the time they are 3 years of age.

According to Dr. Uribe, "Many of the children I see have a medical condition that affects only one eye. Wearing glasses with one thick lens and one clear lens will not work on very young children. A properly fitted contact lens can produce near-normal vision -- the images are the same size, clear and focused, and input equally from both eyes--spurring proper brain development."

For example, if an infant is born with a congenital cataract, the lens inside the eye, which is used for focusing, is cloudy. Vision development in that eye is blocked, leading to amblyopia as the child grows.

When a cataract is surgically removed in an adult, it is usually replaced with a lens implant. Lens implant surgery does not work for very young children because their eyes are growing so rapidly. Contact lenses are the preferred choice because they can be refitted frequently and they provide more natural vision than lop-sided cataract glasses.

Contact lenses for young children run from $90 to $300 per lens depending on the prescription. Because of the huge changes that occur in the eye during a baby's first year of life, children may require up to six different prescriptions. The lenses are considered medically necessary (vs. cosmetic use), so insurance generally covers at least some of the costs associated with them.

Dr. Uribe reports that parents are generally scared to insert the lenses at first, but quickly develop ways of coping. As the child grows, he/she often becomes responsible for his/her own lenses at age seven or eight.

"Although we often think of contact lenses as appropriate cosmetically for teenagers, they can also be a good alternative for school-age children who wear glasses and want to participate in sports or are subject to teasing," said Dr. Uribe.

About The Vision Center - "Where all eye conditions receive extraordinary care." The Vision Center at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles is an international referral center known for its family friendly environment of children afflicted with all forms of eye disease and provides a full range of inpatient and outpatient services. It is the largest pediatric ophthalmology program in the nation with multiple subspecialty programs that are considered to be among today's finest resources for diagnosis, treatment and research.

Founded in 1901, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles has been treating the most seriously ill and injured children in Los Angeles for more than a century, and it is acknowledged throughout the United States and around the world for its leadership in pediatric and adolescent health. Childrens Hospital is one of America's premier teaching hospitals, affiliated with the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California since 1932. The Saban Research Institute of Childrens Hospital Los Angeles is among the largest and most productive pediatric research facilities in the United States.

Since 1990, U.S. News & World Report and its panel of board-certified pediatricians have named Childrens Hospital Los Angeles one of the top pediatric facilities in the nation. Childrens Hospital Los Angeles is one of only 10 children's hospitals in the nation - and the only children's hospital on the West Coast - ranked in all 10 pediatric specialties in the U.S. News & World Report rankings and named to the magazine's "Honor Roll" of children's hospitals.

Childrens Hospital Los Angeles also is one of eight children's hospitals in the nation to receive the "Top Hospital" designation from The Leapfrog Group. And Childrens Hospital Los Angeles is one of only three pediatric medical centers in the nation to receive both honors - "Top Hospital" from Leapfrog and the "Honor Roll" from U.S. News & World Report.

Provided by Newswise, online resource for knowledge-based news at www.newswise.com

Media Contacts: Amanda Hedlund The Vision Center CHLA ahedlund@chla.usc.edu 323-361-7691 James Harris Westside PR jharris@westsidepr.com 310-398-5565

SOURCE Childrens Hospital Los Angeles
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