Understanding Pediatric Oculofacial Surgery
Although I specialize in oculofacial plastic and reconstructive surgery for individuals of all ages, children hold a special place in my heart. My experience working in pediatric oculofacial surgery has taught me what a critically important role it can play in improving a child's health and quality of life.
Oculofacial surgery focuses not only on the face, but also the orbit (the bony socket that houses the eye), the eyelids, and the lacrimal system (tear system). There are several common eye problems that affect adults and children, but treating these conditions in children requires unique expertise and knowledge.
According to American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the most prevalent eye problems affecting children are excess tearing, eyelid abnormalities, orbital disease, and injury due to trauma.
Excessive tearing in children most commonly is due to a congenital blockage of the tear drainage system, causing both tearing and discharge. In many instances, these blockages will open up on their own during the first year of life. However, if the issue persists, the surgical option has a very high success rate.
If an infant is born with an improperly formed eyelid, this can negatively affect visual development during the child's early years. Ptosis is a congenital condition where the eyelid droops, most commonly because of an issue with the muscle that lifts the eyelid. Depending on the severity of the muscle weakness, surgery can be done to lift the eyelid.
Other common eyelid problems include in turning or out turning of the lid, misdirected eyelashes, or a growth in the lid or skin. Treating these problems is crucial to keep the eye healthy and ensure normal vision development.
Benign growths or tumors can affect the periocular region and orbit in children. Capillary hemangiomas (aka infantile hemangiomas, strawberry hemangioma, or strawberry nevus) is a benign growth that may require urgent treatment, as it may affect proper visual development.
Orbital problems are not common in children, but occasionally, serious bacterial infections can spread to the eye socket from a sinus infection. This will require antibiotic treatment, and sometimes surgery. Some cancers can also affect children's eyes, and typical treatment involves a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and sometimes radiation.
Many eye issues exist at birth or are acquired in the early years of life, but children can also be put at risk during everyday physical activities. These trauma-related injuries, if severe, often require surgical intervention.
If your child is in need of oculofacial surgery, it is important to consult a doctor who specializes in pediatric oculofacial surgery in order to guarantee the best care and best chance of success for your child.