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Child Eye Care
Warning Signs of Vision Problems in Children
- Squinting, rubbing or closing one eye
- Constantly reading close to the face
- Tilting the head to focus on objects
- One or both eyes turn in or out
- Redness or tearing in eyes
- Premature birth
- Developmental delays
- Family history of "lazy eye" or "thick glasses"
- Any disease that affects the whole body
Role as a parent
Vision is very important to the development and education of a child. And parents must be extra-vigilant because a child may not realize that his vision is not normal. The onus is on the parents to notice the signs of a vision problem and to follow up with a visit to the eye specialist.
All babies should receive an infant's eye exam. Babies usually see movement before anything else. Full-term babies should be able to see their mother's facial expression within a week of birth. Colour vision and depth perception aren't yet fully developed in infants and eye muscle coordination is also very immature. Babies often have eyes that are turned in, turned out or not working as a team, a condition known as strabismus. If this problem doesn't resolve itself by the age of three or four months one should consult an eye doctor.
From age 3 to 6, your child will be fine-tuning the vision already developed during the infant and toddler years. Watch for the warning signs of visual problems, such as sitting too close to the TV or holding a book too close, squinting, head- tilting, eye rubbing and sensitivity to light. Farsightedness and strabismus are common problems within this age group. However, some problems might not manifest externally and can only be detected by specialists.
If your child exhibits no symptoms of a visual problem, he should have a children's eye exam by the age of 3. Having a complete children's eye exam even before the child enters school allows enough time to identify and correct any problems while the visual system is still flexible. If your pre-schooler needs glasses, make sure your child understands why. Explain that he/she needs glasses to see clearly, and give specific examples of the benefits, such as that he'll be able to see the words in his books better or will be able to play catch with friends only when he can see he can now see the ball clearly.
If your child requires glasses or contact lenses for refractive errors, schedule visits your eye doctor every 12 months.
Do ask your child to attend vision-screening programs held in the school. However, this is not a comprehensive eye test, the objective is to alert parents to the possibility of a visual problem and schedule a visit to the eye doctor.
An eye condition commonly missed with vision screening is ambloypia. Also known as lazy eye, it is a vision problem that affects many children. If left uncorrected, it can have a very big impact on their education. In this the central vision does not develop properly and occurs usually in one eye.
Untreated amblyopia may lead to functional blindness in the affected eye. Although the amblyopic eye has the capability to see, the brain "turns off" this eye because vision is very blurred. The brain elects to see only with the stronger eye.
Amblyopia generally develops in young children, before the age of six. If a child squints or completely closes one eye to see, he or she may suffer from amblyopia. Other signs of amblyopia include overall poor visual acuity, eyestrain and headaches.
Children with amblyopia can be treated with patching one eye, using prescribed eye drops, the correct prescription for nearsightedness or farsightedness, or surgery.
Sports-related eye injuries are preventable by using protective eyewear. Children are especially vulnerable to eye injuries as they don't understand the value of vision and the precautions to be kept in mind. For children, eye injuries happen mainly while playing. They should wear eye protection for any sports and recreational activities that uses a projectile or racket, involves rough contact with other players, or requires travel at high speed. Ask your eye doctor about the best eye protection for your child.
About 80% of learning in a child's first 12 years comes through the eyes. Some children are labeled "learning disabled" or "trouble-makers," when all they need is an eye exam and appropriate vision correction. Good vision is fundamental to reading; it is vital to be able to clearly see learning tools such as the chalkboard, visual aids and videos. In short, good vision is as essential to learning as learning the ABC itself.