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All You Need To Know About Eyes And Eye Care In Kids
The Right to Sight!
SCHOOL GOING CHILDREN
“Vision problems affect one in 20 preschoolers and one in four school-age children” (Shroff Eye Vision Screening Program, Mumbai, 2003-4).
“Two to four percent of India’s children develop a squint [cross-eyed] and/or amblyopia [lazy eye]. Early detection and treatment of these disorders during childhood is essential for preventing permanent vision loss”.
In many cases the child doesn’t see well out of one eye, as there may be a refractive error [spectacle number] in just that one eye. Here the eyes do not work as a team to see. If your child’s brain doesn’t receive visual images from that eye, eventually the brain will “shut off” that eye and vision could be permanently impaired. This condition is often undetected because the child has learnt to read from the good eye. During an eye examination, where each eye is separately checked, one can diagnose this condition.
Examination of vision among pre-school and primary school-going children is very rarely practiced in India unless an obvious problem is noted. Often the problem is dealt with too late. It is possible to check the vision in children who cannot read alphabets. All children attending kindergarten must be checked at admission.
How to detect these common eye problems?
1. Basic eye examination for every newborn by the paediatrician.
2. All premature babies need an eye examination by an ophthalmologist
3. First detailed eye examination for all children age of 6 months; again at 2 years, and then annually.
4. Screenings at school are designed to alert parents to the possibility of a visual problem, but not take the place of a visit to an eye doctor. One study found that 11.3 percent of children who passed a vision screening were found to have a vision problem in need of correction.
5. Detailed eye examination by an ophthalmologist in the presence of visual impairment.
6. Follow-up annual examination by the ophthalmologist is recommended to stay on top of your child’s visual needs, as well as ensure that your child’s prescription for eyeglasses is still correct. The visual system is developing along with your child, so annual prescription changes are common.
A higher risk of eye problems at an early age in today’s times
“Many pediatric eye doctors believe that heavy computer use among children puts them at risk for early myopia [short sightedness]” The average child now spends one to three hours per day on the computer doing homework, talking online with friends, and playing games. Parents encourage children as young as two or three years old to use the computer. Several recent studies have evidence that computers can have a negative impact on a child’s vision. They have found that 25% to 30% of computer-using children need corrective eyewear to work comfortably and safely at the computer at home or in school. See below in tips how to prevent Computer Vision Syndrome in children.
Tips on daily eye care for children:
1. Diet: A healthy diet with emphasis on green leafy vegetables, drumstick, carrots, beetroot, fresh fruits including mango and papaya are particularly rich in Vitamin A.
2. Lighting: Light source should be positioned behind your child while reading. Avoid direct glare by using shielded light. Reading material should ideally be placed 12- 14
3. VDU’s or Visual display units include TVs and computer screens.
Headaches, eyestrain, burning, watering, blurring of vision, double vision and nausea can all be caused by prolong work on the VDUs.
Avoid watching TV in a dark room. A well-lit room with white light [tubelight] is ideal.
Preferred viewing distance for watching TV is 4 metres or more.
Place the computer screen at eye level or slightly lower and in such a way to minimize reflection and glare. The recommended distance between the monitor and the eye for children is 18-28 inches. By viewing the computer screen closer than 18 inches, children risk straining their eyes. Parents and teachers should be aware of any behaviour that indicates potential problems, such as eye redness, frequent rubbing of the eyes, head turns and other unusual postures, or complaints of blurriness or eye fatigue. Avoidance of the computer may also be an indication of discomfort. Do not let the child sit for more than 40 minutes continuously in front of a computer monitor.
4. Allergies and frequent colds: must be looked into and treated. Allergies of the eyes may make the child ‘knuckle’ his/ her eyes, which may become habitual and lead to permanent corneal abnormalities.
5. Swimming: Water tight swimming goggles prevents irritation due to chlorine and reduces the chances of infection.
6. Sports: If your child is involved in ball games and /or contact sports protective eye wear made of polycarbonate is recommended.
7. UV light: Exposure to sunlight is healthy in moderation and helps in the making if Vitamin D by the body. Too much exposure to bright sunlight is harmful and can cause damage. Wide brimmed hats and UV filtering sunglasses provide adequate protection.
8. Application of ‘kajal’ to newborns, washing the eyes with normal water, rose water etc is an absolute NO-NO. The normal circulation of tears is enough to adequately cleanse the eye of any extraneous material.
The gift of vision is very precious. Give your child the best start in life by visiting your eye doctor today.
Common Myths in Kids
Myth about squint: ‘Squint in a child should wait till they grow up’
Generally speaking squints in children should be corrected before age 9 years. This is because later though a cosmetic treatment may be possible, the child after 9 years of age will continue to have a poorly developed vision from lazy eyes due to squint.
Myth about timing of eye examination:’Children do not need eye examinations until they are in school’
False. It is recommended that every child’s eyes be examined regularly starting at birth. Some eye problems such as crossed eyes or amblyopia (lazy eye) can result in permanent loss of sight in the affected eye if not detected and treated before the child is five or six years old.
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