As of March 2022, there was only 1056 pediatric ophthalmologist in the US according to JAMA Ophthalmology.
The AAO researchers found 90% of US counties and four states had no pediatric ophthalmologist. Most of the pediatric ophthalmology practices are in metropolitan areas and around academic institutions. rural populations, disproportionately, lack access to this type of care, which can impact the diagnosis, treatment, and management of serious eye conditions in children.
One reason for the disparity is the environment independent healthcare providers must operate in today, they face these are some of the factors that deter specialists from locating in certain areas:
• Higher education costs
• The cost of start-up and the cost of “doing business.”
• The minimal amount of payment independent providers receive from insurance companies and government medical assistance.
Children are not just small adults; pediatric ophthalmologists are specially trained to diagnose children in a way that helps them feel comfortable and cooperative.
They use vision tests specifically designed for the children’s developmental stage and special equipment appropriately sized for children.
Pediatric ophthalmologists treat children whose eyes are not developing correctly, with serious eye, injuries, or infections. Other conditions they diagnose and treat:
• Juvenile arthritis
• Type one diabetes
• Pediatric cataracts
• Babies born prematurely.
• Down syndrome
• Strabismus (crossed or wandering eyes)
• Amblyopia (lazy)
• Blocked tear ducts
• Any number of other illnesses that affect the eyes and vision associated with genetic diseases, metabolic conditions, nervous system, and immune system.
Often a pediatric patient is referred to a pediatric ophthalmologist by a PCP, pediatrician, or optometrist if one is even available to a patient.
Treatments do exist for some childhood eye diseases. The danger lies in whether there is early detection and quick treatment. It is often a lack of eye care, specialists that delay the start of treatment.