EYE PROBLEMS IN CHILDHOOD

Healthy eyes are important for the overall development of children. If eyesight problems are not detected and treated in time, they may cause permanent vision impairment, learning disabilities and delayed development. Since children often cannot communicate their problems, regular check-ups are important. The care providers( parents, grandparents and teachers) should be alert to possible problems.

As a rule eye check-up in children should be done at birth,1st year of life, preschool(3years), 5 years and thereafter annually.

The warning signs that a child maybe suffering from an eye ailment are: baby does not follow objects nor make eye contact by 3 months age, eyes are constantly watering, redness or extreme sensitivity to light, frequent rubbing of eyes, eyes turn in or out, pupil appears white, child complains of headache or difficulty in seeing blackboard, poor performance in school.

Refractive errors are a common problem in children and easily managed with glasses. Even babies maybe prescribed glasses. Especially those with a family history of eye problems should be regularly examined. Plastic frames with elastic strap attached to glasses and polycarbonate lenses are most suitable for kids.

Squint is a misalighnment of eyes, they may turn in or out, up or down.If parents notice any deviation, they must consult an eye specialist at the earliest. It is a myth that a child will outgrow his squint, it can be managed with glasses, exercises or surgery.

Amblyopia(lazy eye) is poor vision in an eye which appears to be normal. It is often due to high number in one eye or squint.It must be treated early before the age of 8 years, otherwise the visual loss becomes irreversible. Proper glasses and patching of better eye should be diligently followed as per doctor’s advice.

In infants blockage of tear ducts commonly occurs and is managed by massage and eye drops. Congenital cataract and glaucoma can also occur. They must be treated by surgery at the earliest, otherwise permanent visual impairment will result.

Premature and low birthweight babies must be examined for retinopathy of prematurity(ROP). Rarely tumors can affect the eyes of children.

Eye injuries in kids can cause serious damage. Some of the safety precautions are: avoid firecrackers and toys with sharp edges, bow and arrow etc., hazardous cleaning agents and sprays should be kept out of their reach, protective gear during sports activities.

In children eye problems should not be ignored as they can have lasting adverse impact. Regular eye examination by a specialist is mandatory.
Eye Health for Kids
Routine medical exams for kids' vision include:
  1. Newborns should be checked for general eye health by a pediatrician or family physician in the hospital nursery.
  2. High-risk newborns (including premature infants), those with a family history of eye problems, and those with obvious eye irregularities should be examined by an eye doctor at the earliest.
  3. In the first year of life, all infants should be routinely screened for eye health during checkups with their doctors.
  4. Around age 3½, kids should undergo eye health screenings and visual acuity tests (or tests that measure sharpness of vision).
  5. Around age 5, kids should have their vision and eye alignment evaluated by an eye specialist.
  6. After age 5, further routine screenings should be done at school or the doctor's office, or after the appearance of symptoms such as squinting or frequent headaches. (Many times, a teacher will realize the child isn't seeing well in class.)
Spotting Eye Problems
Signs that a child may have vision problems include:
  1. constant eye rubbing
  2. extreme light sensitivity
  3. poor focusing
  4. poor visual tracking (not following an object)
  5. abnormal alignment or movement of the eyes
  6. chronic redness of the eyes
  7. chronic tearing of the eyes
  8. a white pupil instead of black
In school-age children, watch for other signs such as:
  1. inability to see objects at a distance
  2. inability to read the blackboard
  3. squinting
  4. difficulty reading
  5. sitting too close to the TV
Watch your child for evidence of poor vision or crossed eyes. If you notice any eye problems, have your child examined immediately so that the problem doesn't become permanent.

What to Do: Routine Irritation

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly before touching the eyelids to examine or flush the eye.
  2. Do not touch, press, or rub the eye itself, and do whatever you can to keep your child from touching it (a baby can be swaddled as a preventive measure).
  3. Do not try to remove any foreign body except by flushing, because of the risk of scratching the surface of the eye, especially the cornea.
  4. Tilt the child's head over a basin or sink with the affected eye down and gently pull down the lower lid, encouraging the child to open his or her eyes as wide as possible. For an infant or small child, it's helpful to have a second person hold the child's eyes open while you flush.
  5. Gently pour a steady stream of lukewarm water (do not heat the water) from a pitcher or faucet over the eye.
  6. Flush for up to 15 minutes, checking the eye every 5 minutes to see if the foreign body has been flushed out.
  7. Because a particle can scratch the cornea and cause an infection, the eye should be examined by a doctor if there continues to be any irritation afterward.
  8. If a foreign body is not dislodged by flushing, it will probably be necessary for a trained medical professional to flush the eye.
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