Among various child health issues that parents are most concerned with, eyes and vision rank near the top. Good vision is essential for proper physical development and educational progress in children.
Vision problems affect one in twenty pre-schoolers and one in four school children in America. Since many vision problems can be cured or prevented if diagnosed early, it is important for children to receive proper eye care at the right time.
The visual system in young children is not fully mature. The brain centres and visual pathways need clear images from both eyes to develop normally. If the image from one eye or both eyes is blurred because of any reason (glass number, cataract, squint or retinal problems, etc.), it can result in permanent damage to vision. Normal pathways for vision evolve till 7-8 years of age.
Common problems seen in children are amblyopia or "lazy eyes" "squinting" or "wandering" eyes, vision problems, eye infections and injuries. These can be prevented by early vision screening as suggested by The American Academy of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus and The American Academy of Family Physicians and The American Academy of Pediatrics.
The pediatrician, nurse or family physician should screen for any white reflex in the pupil, discharge or watering, droopy eyes or crossed eyes. An ophthalmologist should be asked to examine high risk infants, i.e., those at risk of developing retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), those with family history of glaucoma, or childhood cataracts, retinal dystrophies, systemic disease associated with eye problems and children with neurological problems.
Children will not be able to communicate about their vision problems to parents at this age, therefore parents need to notice their behavior and be alert for any kind of problems. Look for tell-tale signs of poor vision in your child.
Children are apprehensive about new surroundings and interaction with strangers. They may not cooperate for eye examination easily. You can try to allay their fears and reduce their anxiety about an unfamiliar environment by talking and explaining about the subject.
At home, follow some simple rules to avoid/ minimize eye injuries:
Child Eye Care is a joint responsibility of the pediatrician, family physician, ophthalmologist and parents together. Any child having serious vision problems should be attended to immediately by the ophthalmologist. Parents should pay attention to the childs eyes and behavior. They should also take it seriously if the child is complaining of visual problems consistently. Every child should have at least one eye examination by an ophthalmologist before the age of 5 years, especially if the parents are wearing glasses. School going children should also be examined at least once between the ages of 7 and 18 years. Early detection provides the best opportunity for an effective treatment.