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Programs and research
Providing routine and specialty care for healthy eyes
Your child’s vision is an important part of how they interact with their surroundings. UW Health Kids vision specialists help your child see the world around them. We manage all childhood eye conditions.
The Lions Pediatric Eye and Adult Strabismus Clinic at UW Health was the first of its kind in Wisconsin. Opened in 1971, the clinic provides medical and surgical treatment for childhood eye conditions. Today, we treat patients from across Wisconsin, the United States and the globe.
Eye health is critically important for children of all ages. Up to 80 percent of what children learn comes from using their visual pathways.
Our UW Health Kids eye care team provides:
Early eye exams for children at risk
Eye care and vision management for premature babies and children living with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome or a neurological condition
Regular eye exams
Improving your child’s vision with research
UW Health Kids eye care doctors and scientists work to improve vision care for your child. We study advancements and new treatments to give your child their best sight.
UW Health Kids research professionals are constantly uncovering new ways to help all children see the world. A current clinical trial tests medicine to improve vision for children with albinism.
UW Health has always been so amazing with my family. I really want to help patients like they helped us.
Conditions and treatments
Treating eye conditions before they get worse
UW Health Kids experts evaluate and treat a range of childhood eye and vision conditions.
Services and treatments
Many children experience changes in their vision as they grow. Rarely do vision conditions get better on their own, so early treatment is essential.
We perform routine and specialized eye exams for children of all ages. Our pediatric eye care professionals care for children at risk for certain eye conditions to provide early treatment. We also work with older children living with a condition that impacts their vision.
UW Health Kids providers a variety of services to diagnose your child's eye conditions, including:
Screenings for eye conditions related to diabetes, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis or medication side effects
Visual evoked potential (VEP) testing to check vision in infants or nonverbal children
We provide a full range of eye care treatments to help you child see better, including:
Visit our nearby eye care clinics
UW Health Kids ophthalmology care is offered at clinics throughout the region.
Meet our team
Pediatric eye specialists
The UW Health Kids eye care team includes specialists in ophthalmology, optometry and orthoptics (eye muscle conditions) experienced in working with children.
What you need to know about your child’s eye care and exams
Learn what you and your child can expect when you meet with your child’s eye care team.
Preparing for your appointment
If your child has seen other eye doctors in the past, please arrange to have records from those examinations sent to our clinic prior to your appointment. This is particularly important if eye muscle surgery has been performed. If it is not possible to have records sent to the clinic before your appointment, it is still helpful to bring them with you to your child's appointment.
If prior imaging studies have been done (CT scan or MRI) related to the problem for which your child is coming to our clinic, please arrange to have copies of the scans sent to our clinic in advance of the appointment. Be sure they send copies of the scans themselves and not just the written report. Sending them to us in advance of the appointment allows time for our doctor to review them and consult with our radiologist, if needed.
Bring all glasses to your child's appointment so our staff can check them.
If your child usually wears contact lenses, they should wear them to the appointment; however, also bring their glasses. If your child wants to be fit with contact lenses or if they are having problems with their current contact lenses, ask the receptionist to also schedule time with our contact lens technician in addition to the eye doctor on the same day as your child's appointment.
If your child is currently using eye drops or ointment or has used these medications in the past two weeks, bring them to the appointment.
If you observe a misalignment of your child’s eye in photographs, bring sample photographs to the clinic appointment to show the eye doctor.
Please provide the clinic with at least 24 hours notice if you need to cancel or reschedule your child's appointment so we can offer it to another patient.
If this is your child's first visit to the clinic or is an annual follow-up visit, the examination will include eye drops to dilate their pupils. Please allow 2 hours for these appointments. Follow-up examinations last between 20 to 60 minutes.
Frequently asked questions
Children's eye exams begin shortly after birth, when the physician checks the newborn for a red glow in the back of the eyes. This "red reflex" test indicates if light rays are entering the eyes properly. Any abnormality should result in an immediate referral to a pediatric ophthalmologist, a specialist in children's eye problems.
All children should have an eye exam by the age of 4 years or younger if there is a family history of significant eye problems. If one or both parents had either strabismus or amblyopia when very young, for example, it's important for their child to have an eye exam in the first year by an ophthalmologist. Children who have severe or unusual problems should see a pediatric ophthalmologist.
Dilation of the pupils is an essential part of a complete eye examination. It is necessary to permit a complete evaluation of the inside parts of the eyes, as well as to accurately determine the presence of nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism.
Dilating drops sting somewhat and feel similar to getting soapy water or swimming pool water in your eyes. The discomfort is usually short, lasting only about a minute.
Typically once a year.
While the pupils are dilated, the eyes will be more sensitive to light, so we offer disposable sunglasses to our patients. Additionally, vision will be somewhat blurred, especially for seeing near objects. The drops usually take 40 minutes to work in children and 20 minutes in adults. The effect typically lasts from several hours to 24 hours. There are no permanent or lasting effects of the drops.
Our doctors want to provide all patients with the amount of time necessary to care for eye problems and to answer all questions. We frequently have no way of knowing in advance which patients will require a greater than average time with the staff. Our staff will attempt to let you know if there is an unusual delay. Also, unexpected emergencies must be worked into the busy clinic schedule.
On most days there is more than one physician or orthoptist scheduled to see patients in the clinic, and patients for all these caregivers use the same waiting area. Additionally, some patients may have completed the dilation waiting period and are being called to finish their examination.
Pediatric ophthalmologists have expertise in treating eye muscle problems in children and adults. Many eye muscle problems begin in childhood and when an adult has a similar problem, it is often best treated by someone with that expertise. The Pediatric Eye and Adult Strabismus Clinic treats many adults with strabismus, as well as adults with certain genetic eye conditions.
Our staff includes several caregivers who assist the ophthalmologist in your care. An orthoptist is a specially trained and certified allied health professional who specializes in evaluating and caring for patients with eye muscle problems. This professional has special expertise in working with children regardless of their eye problem, as well as adults with strabismus. Pediatric ophthalmology fellows and residents are physicians receiving intensive training in the care of children’s eye problems and patients of all ages with strabismus. Nurses and technicians may also provide assistance during your visit.