Eyes and vision rank among the health issues of most concern to parents. While serious eye disease is uncommon in children, it is estimated that one in 20 preschool children and one in four school-age children has a vision problem that needs correcting and could cause permanent vision loss if left untreated.
Uncorrected vision problems are a serious problem for parents and children. Parents need to be aware because children may not realize something is wrong with their vision. A child assumes others see the world as she does. If it’s what she always knew, then it seems normal.
Vision exams performed by trained professionals are one of the strongest medical methods available for ensuring the long-term health and well-being of your child. Numerous learning and behavior problems stem from poor vision, yet too many children begin school without undergoing a complete and professional eye exam. Parents need to know the signs of vision problems and seek evaluation and treatment early.
More than 90 percent of vision development and eye health problems are treatable and can be more easily corrected if treatment is started early. Be observant in detecting the early warning signs in your children.
Vision screening is aimed at detecting eye disorders in children that can be treated when they are young. In addition to normal pediatric checkups, children without symptoms and who are at low risk for eye problems should have their eyes screened by:
Risk-free children should continue to have their eyes examined every two years throughout school. If there are risk factors more frequent eye exams are necessary. They include:
If a child has one of the problems listed below, he or she should have an examination by an eye doctor as soon as possible. No infant or child is too young to have an eye exam.
Early treatment can prevent vision loss. In some cases, if an eye disease is not treated your child could lose her sight. Treatment for eye diseases may include medications, eye patches, eye exercises or surgery.
A problem parents face when their child has pink eye or other eye infection is how to administer eye drops? While your child is sitting down, tilt her head back, gently pull the lower eye lid down and place the eye drops or ointment into her eye. If this isn’t successful, have her close her eyes and then place the drops on the inner corner of his eyes and then have her open her eyes. The drops should go into her eye.
Eye Movement Disorders are a group of conditions that affect the way one eye or both eyes together move. Most of us are fortunate because our eyes started to work as a team very early in infancy and have continued to work together ever since. We are able to focus each eye on whatever we look at, regardless of the direction, and our brain combines the picture or image from each eye into the mental picture we actually see in three dimensions.
About four to five percent of children have some form of Eye Movement Disorder. For a number of reasons their eyes do not move properly or work together as a team. It is important that these conditions be diagnosed and treated as early as possible when the eye is still developing.
Strabismus is a visual condition in which the eyes point in different directions and are out of alignment. One eye may be straight and the other turned in, out, up or down. It may be constant or come and go. There are three basic kinds of strabismus:
Though we know the brain controls the eye muscles that control the eye movement, and that the muscles in both eyes must be coordinated for the eyes to move together, we don’t know the exact cause of strabismus.
It is estimated that 4 percent of children have some form of Strabismus. Males and females are affected equally and it may run in families.
Children may sometimes squint one eye in the sunlight or tilt their head to use both eyes together.
The child with strabismus rarely complains. In most cases, it is the appearance of the eye that first catches the parent’s attention. A child should be examined by an ophthalmologist whenever the eyes appear not to be working together.
After a thorough eye exam your doctor can recommend the best treatment, which may involve patching, eyeglasses, surgery or a combination of these therapies.
Amblyopia is caused when the brain favors one eye and refuses to use the other. If for any reason the visual stimuli from each eye are different, the brain responds by suppressing one eye. The suppressed eye may look normal, but it is not being used normally. The brain favors the stronger eye and vision does not develop in the weaker eye. This condition is also sometimes called lazy eye.
Amblyopia is the most common cause of visual impairment in childhood. The condition affects approximately 2 to 3 percent of children under six. Unless it is successfully treated in early childhood, amblyopia will persist into adulthood and is the most common cause of one-eye or monocular visual impairment among children and young and middle-aged adults.
Any condition that affects normal visual development or use of either eye during the critical period (birth to 6 years of age) may cause amblyopia. The most common causes of amblyopia are strabismus and when one eye is more nearsighted, farsighted, or astigmatic than the other eye.
Because amblyopia usually occurs in only one eye, many children are unaware of their condition and they either can’t or don’t know how to tell their parents. If parents don’t take their infants and toddlers for a comprehensive vision examination, many children will go undiagnosed until a later age-often when they begin school.
Amblyopia treatment is most effective when done early in the child’s life, usually before age 6. Treatment involves making the child use the eye with the reduced vision (weaker eye) and is usually simple, employing glasses, drops, exercises and/or patching.
The vision pathways in the brain must become strong early, when children are very young. The first few years of life are the most important for eyesight. After a child is 8 to 10, the brain’s vision system is complete. If the amblyopia hasn’t been treated by this age, the child could have poor vision for life. With early detection, accurate diagnosis and proper treatment, the prognosis with amblyopia is excellent. Treatment before age 6 years of age, and especially before 2 years of age, gives the best results.
Nystagmus an involuntary movement of the eyes-usually a mixture of slow and fast movements of the eyes that are repetitive. The direct cause of nystagmus is an instability in the motor system controlling the eyes. There is no known cure however, certain types of nystagmus show spontaneous improvement up to age 10. Treatment may include having the child sit in the front row at school, special eye glasses or surgery.