Preventative medicine comes in many different forms. It can be dietary changes to stave off diabetes, immunization shots, regular dental cleanings or yearly mammograms. For Dr. Victor Abdow, a pediatrician at Abdow Friendship Pediatrics, one way he practices preventative medicine is by giving his young patients both vision and hearing exams during routine physicals.
“We try to do something that’s going to prevent further problems down the road,” said Abdow, whose practice is located in Rockville, MD. “That’s what we’re here for, to prevent issues in the future.”
Abdow has learned that the increase in technology use has come at a price for his young patients; poor vision caused by myopia. Myopia, or nearsightedness where distant objects appear blurry, can be exacerbated through excessive computer and phone use. The eye becomes elongated and ultimately results in a child not being able to see distant objects clearly.
Although glasses help a child see clearly they don’t treat myopia, and it usually gets worse over time, putting a child at risk for other eye diseases. Dr. Abdow now works with local eye care center Treehouse Eyes, who specializes in treatments for childhood myopia. The non-surgical treatments provided at Treehouse Eyes work to slow or stop myopia from getting worse. This appealed to Abdow and his pursuit of preventative medicine. He now screens all of his patients for myopia. With one quick photo, he is able to determine if myopia is forming in young children.
What’s a common misconception parents have in regards to eyesight?
I think that the common misconception is that when patients go to an eye doctor to treat myopia, they think they’re getting treatment. But they’re really not getting treatment. They’re getting prescription glasses to correct the vision, which is only going to worsen over time. As the eye weakens over time, or becomes more myopic, the prescription is going to increase. The vision will get corrected, but it’s not fixing the problem. Not many pediatric doctors seem to test eyesight.
Why do you?
I do vision screens at every physical, every year. Starting at 12 months, I screen all my infants and children, until they’re 18, to look for eye conditions, not just myopia. Vision is a big thing. Everybody needs to have healthy eyes. We have to drive, we have to read, and we have to perform. It’s early intervention. If we can get them help sooner than later, you can prevent things progressing and getting worse.
How do you screen for myopia?
Using a device from Treehouse Eyes, it tells me what your prescription lens would be. The device is attached to an iPhone, and I would have the child look into the camera and take a photograph. Then, this device tells me whether the child has issues with being nearsighted or farsighted. It gives you an actual number similar an ophthalmologist or optometrist to get prescription eyeglasses. Any number that is negative signifies that the child has the start of myopia.
Why is this kind of preventative medicine important?
If you find myopia sooner rather than later, you can get better success with the treatment. The amount of screen time is exceeding the recommendations. I think this is making myopia far worse. And, people don’t realize that with myopia, you’re putting yourself at risk for other conditions—retinal detachment, macular degeneration, glaucoma. We can lessen those kinds of problems with myopia treatment prevention; which is good for children.
Do eye exams happen at routine physicals, or is it something that parents need to request?
Every time a patient comes into the office for a physical exam. The parent should request a vision test. We offer hearing and vision exams. Part of the vision screening now, includes the device that Treehouse Eyes gave me. Not only do we use the eye chart where they read the lines, but I also use their device to double check. Even if a child has 20/20 vision, it doesn’t mean that they’re not prone to myopia. If I’m giving them the test and get a negative number, I’m detecting that myopia early.
What kind of preventative measures do you recommend when it comes to myopia and eye health?
Work on keeping the screen time down.