August is Kids’ Eye Health and Safety month. As parents and grandparents, we keep kids free of preventable diseases through vaccination; we also need to let them have eye and ear exams early in life. Why? Because abnormalities can be detected quickly and attended to.
Babies at birth usually have an eye exam before they are discharged home. Up to 4 months of age, their eyes may look misaligned (strabismus) 👀👀 but this is expected; however if it continues after this period, let a doctor know. After one month, a baby should be able to turn attention to light or toys and by three months be able to track objects from side to side.
However, if you notice some of the following issues at home, make sure you see a pediatric eye doctor. For example,
• Baby squints a lot and seems to be overly sensitive to light
• One eye is bigger than the other or pupils are unequal in size
• One eye does not open or the pupil has grey, white or cloudy color in it
• When a photo is taken, the usual redness behind the pupil appears white or grey
• Other symptoms you or others close to baby are concerned about.
Toddlers and Children
-These may present with excessive squinting, tearing or redness of eye
-Eyes turned in or out, 👀👀with abnormal movements or alignment of eye
-Sitting too close to the TV, not seeing far or holding a book very close to the face
-Falling behind in school, not playing games, with friends if they involve eye and hand coordination
Let them see an eye doctor (Ophthalmologist) if you become concerned about any of above
COMMON EYE CONDITIONS IN KIDS
One in five children may have vision problems and the earlier they are detected the better so as to prevent potential permanent vision loss, challenges in school and social isolation.
-Strabismus – Cross eyed: This is misalignment of the eyes with one pointing in or outward. It may be due to muscle problems or nerve abnormality. If a child older than 4 months has this, she has to be examined and treated. If not treated, it can cause double vision, amblyopia and vision loss. Treatment is with glasses, eye patching or surgery
-Amblyopia- Lazy eye: There is vision problem in one eye causing blurred vision and it gets worse if not corrected because the brain seems to ignore that eye. Treatment includes eye patches, drops, glasses or contact lenses, and sometimes surgery.
-Refractive Errors- These prevent light from bending well and focusing correctly on the retina. The common ones are near sighted (myopia) can see close up;, far sightedness (hypermetropia/ hyperopia) can see far away but not close up, and curvature of the cornea (astigmatism). Treatment options include eyeglasses and contact lenses.
It is important that children starting school should have their vision checked by eye doctors/nurses.
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Dr. Barbara Entsuah, Family Medicine Physician and Author