A child's eyes are the windows to the future
A good vision is crucial for a child's physical development, and well-being. Before we discuss the problems a child faces from eye conditions we need to understand that children's eye problems often differ from those seen in adults and are often different from those of a fully grown individual.
Children have eyes that are still developing and the impact of uncorrected eye problems during childhood may lead to visual loss for the rest of a person's life
Ophthalmologists suggest that even healthy children without any known risk factors for eye disease should undergo age-appropriate screening examinations with their paediatricians.
Children with parents or siblings with certain eye conditions, such as strabismus or amblyopia, may be at increased risk for these problems, even if they do not appear to have any difficulty with their eyes or vision. These children would benefit from an assessment with a paediatric ophthalmologist.
Children with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, blood problems, metabolic problems, and genetic diseases like neurofibromatosis, need to be examined regularly for eye problems.
Most parents are unsure when to take their child to the Ophthalmologist, but the child can be taken to the doctor at any age, if there is a suspected problem. Otherwise an appropriate time can be between three and four years of age, with the examination including measurement of visual acuity, eye alignment, motility, refraction, and fundoscopy (an examination of the back of the eye). One of the most important aspects of the examination is to identify conditions that are only treatable at an early age.
Children below three years of age or those who cannot speak properly can also be taken to the Ophthalmologist. With special eye drops and equipment, the doctor can see into the eye and measure to see if the child needs glasses, even if they can't read. The doctor will also check for any eye misalignment or other ocular problem.
Children may need glasses for several reasons-some of which are different than for adults. Because a child's visual system is growing and developing, especially during the first 5-6 years of life, glasses may play an important role in ensuring normal development of vision. The main reasons a child may need glasses are:
- To provide better vision, so that a child may function better in his/her environment
- To help straighten the eyes when they are crossed or misaligned (strabismus)
- To provide protection for one eye if the other eye has poor vision
Some common eye disorders among children are:
With early detections and treatment, visual loss from Amblyopia can be minimised or even completely reversed
Strabismus – It is one of the most common conditions seen by paediatric ophthalmologists and is a generic term for any misalignment of the two eyes
The goal of strabismus treatment is to improve eye alignment which allows for better work together (binocular vision).Treatment may involve eye glasses, eye exercises, prism, and/ or eye muscle surgery.
Problems associated with strabismus (including amblyopia, ptosis, and cataract) are usually treated prior to eye muscle surgery.
Paediatric cataract – Paediatric cataracts often occur because of abnormal lens development during pregnancy. Cataracts can be genetic or they can occur spontaneously. These cataracts may be present at birth or may develop during childhood. Some cataracts are small and/or off-center in the lens. These cataracts do not need to be removed because vision develops normally, even if the cataract is left in place.
A few examples of warning signs of vision problems in children are:
- Constant rubbing of the yes
- White reflex in a photograph
- Extreme light sensitivity
- Poor ability to focus
- Poor visual tracking
- Chronic redness of the eye
- Persistent tearing
- Difficulty in reading
- Covering or closing one eye