Jack had an appointment today with a pediatric opthalmologist, as suggested by our ENT doctor, because Down Syndrome children can more frequently have eye conditions such as nystagmus (small, involuntary, jerky movements of the eyes) and cataracts (cloudiness in the lens of the eyes). Jack did really, really well during the examination, even after he was given eye drops to dilate his pupils so that the doctor could better visualize his retina and optic nerve. Having your pupils dilated makes your eyes hypersensitive to sunlight and other bright lights (and even more so in people with lightly colored eyes like Jack), so I diligently kept him out of the sunlight and kept the lights dim in the house today. They said his eyes should be back to normal by tomorrow afternoon, but it hasn't seemed to bother him much at all today ... such a good baby! The office will usually give kids a cool pair of "shades" to wear after getting dilation to protect their eyes, but they said Jack probably wouldn't keep them on given his young age. I thought about asking them for a pair anyways, thinking they would make for some great photos to post for you all, but I didn't want to get looked at like I was some weirdo mom ...
It was really cute to watch a baby get an eye exam! I had these fears that they would have to pry his eye open with a speculum of some sort to examine him (which I had heard is what they have to do to babies in the NICU and which I was not prepared to handle), but it was much, much easier. All the doctor did was just hold up a fun toy that lit up so that Jack would look at it while he shined several opthalmoscopes in his eyes from a distance ... piece of cake!
We were very happy to hear that Jack's vision looks great and there are no signs of nystagmus, lazy eye, or cataracts. The doctor did say, however, that Jack has astigmatism in both eyes, which is common in Down Syndrome, but it also runs in my family (my mom, myself, and I believe both my sisters have astigmatism in one or both eyes). According to my amateur research, about 30% of pre-school children with Down Syndrome have astigmatism. For those of you scratching your heads, astigmatism is an eye disorder in which the cornea (clear tissue covering the front of the eye) is irregularly shaped, which can cause out-of-focus vision. This, in addition to my nearsightedness, is why I have to wear contacts or glasses. Jack's doctor said not to worry about it now and that it is not typical practice to prescribe eyeglasses to correct astigmatism in babies as young as Jack. He may or may not need them in the future. (How cute would little Jack be in glasses though?!?!) Regardless, we're glad he doesn't need any intervention this early in the game.
Jack's eyes also sometimes get red and a little runny with what my family always called "sleepy" in his eyes, particularly in the mornings or after naps. We mentioned this to the doctor, and he said it could possibly be from blocked lacrimal (tear) glands, which is also common in Down Syndrome children, but not anything to be really concerned about. He taught us a technique called "lacrimal massage" to help open any obstructions in the glands and told us that it should clear up by age 12 months. Again, Jack's eyes really don't do this very often, so we're not even sure it's really from blocked tear ducts, but we thought we'd mention it, given we were at the eye doctor and all.
So, I just thought I'd give you all a quick update on Jack ... or at least excite you all with a brief opthalmic lecture before bed! Hope you can sleep after all that excitement ... and feel free to call if you ever have any questions about eye health! ;)