Today we have with us Dr Bharathi Bavaharan, a mom of two cute kids aged 7 and 4 and a consultant ophthalmologist talking about Breaking the Myths surrounding Vision problems in Children. She explains whether watching tv really affects eyesight in children and tips to improve the vision in kids.
Being an ophthalmologist and seeing a lot of eye problems everyday, I am always concerned about the eye health of kids in particular.
Myths surrounding Vision problem
There are a lot of myths surrounding eye health. So let’s see the facts
1. Spectacles are only for Elderly
There is a common misconception that eye problems usually affect elderly and many parents even now are very reluctant to accept that their kids need to wear glasses for clear vision.Contrary to this many eye problems occur in children,and they need a periodic eye examination more so than adults as children are in the sensitive period of eye development and if problems are not identified and treated early it may result in irreversible visual loss.
2. Does Watching TV cause Eye Problems in children?
Many people tend to think that children need spectacles because of watching television closely. Refractive errors occur because of variations in size and curvature of the eyeball and not due to nutritional deficiency or watching TV.
There are many times, we tell the kids to quit watching TV closely or scold them for playing cross eyed games.These habits though annoying, don’t actually damage vision. Kids with normal vision can see well from a few inches to about 20 feet away. Of course, if your child constantly keeps things close to her face, then it is good to get an eye check up.
3. Does Children of Parents with refractive Errors have eyesight problems and need Spectacles?
There is a also misconception that only children of parents with refractive error need spectacles or glasses and has poor eyesight(1). Though there is a genetic predisposition,sometimes they also occur in children without a family history. Not necessarily children of parents with refractive errors will have eyesight problems, myopia, refractive errors and need glasses.
So an eye examination is a must in all normal kids at three years of age.
4. Squinting is lucky!!
There is also a myth that squinting is lucky for the person. This is really bad, because parents don’t get early eye checkup for these kids and by the time, they do get an eye examination it is too late, these problems need to be treated before the age 6-8, when child loses his binocular vision (ability to see as object with both eyes)
5. If you eat Carrots you don’t have to wear spectacles!!
Carrot are rich in beta carotene and are an essential nutrient for eye health. But that doesn’t mean that that if you don’t eat carrots you will have to wear glasses (i.e suffer from refractive errors) or if you eat lots of carrots you don’t have to wear glasses.
What causes Refractive Errors in Children?
Refractive errors (8) occur in children due to the following reasons
1. The eyeball being smaller or larger.
2. The corneal curvature being steeper or flatter.
3. Increase or decrease in the power of lens.
Normal milestones in Eye Development
- Newborn Babies eyes tend to wander until they are 10 weeks old.
- At around 10 weeks, their eyes become aligned and fix on items about 1 metre.
- By 8 month, they can fix and follow objects at 20 feet.
When should you check your Baby’s Eyes ?
1. Normally your pediatrician will check baby’s eyes by around 6 week, at that point they look for the red reflex and any obvious eye problems like opacity and pupillary reflex.The red reflex can also be tested at home, by taking a picture of your baby in dimly lit room with their eyes open, using a flash- both eyes should show a equal red reflex. If there is a difference between the eyes or any white or gray reflex warrants immediate eye examination.
2. For all children, at about 3 years of eye, it is ideal to have an eye examination. Checking vision is as important as vaccination for your kids.
3. If there are no problems, then the child will probably need to be checked every two years there after.
4. If there is an eye disorder in the family or the child has a general illness or born prematurely or has obvious eye problem, need to seek help earlier.
Signs and Symptoms of Vision Problems in Children
- A wandering eye/ eye they doesn’t look straight (in a child >4 months old)
- Dancing eyes, that are never still.
- A cloudiness in front of / inside the eye.
- Watering / discharge from the eyes.
- A red eye.
- Child constantly rubbing his eyes.
- A drooping eye lid.
- A child, who constantly holds / tilts head to one side.
- Children, holding books / objects close to his / her face.
- Eye injury due to any cause – blunt / sharp objects.
Common Eye Problems in Children
It is also called ‘lazy eye’, is poor vision development at the brain level when the brain receives insufficient sensory input from an eye that has a defect in it .Amblyopia is described as the leading cause of preventable vision loss in children.If not detected by age 6 years(sensitive period) amblyopia is often, if not impossible to reverse.
2. Strabismus/ squint
Misaligned or cross eyes. Can lead to amblyopia if not corrected early
3. Refractive errors :
- Myopia or near sightedness: near objects are clear but distant objects are blurred.
- Hypermetropia or far sightedness: distant objects are clearer , close objects are blurred.
- Astigmatism: Distorted vision at both near and far distances. Can be due to corneal curvature abnormalities.
4. Ptosis (or)drooping of lids
Congenital / Acquired can result in abnormal head posture/amblyopia/ astigmatism
5. Congenital cataract
It is the cloudiness or opacity of the lens. It can be due to infections in the antenatal period (or) part of systemic diseases.
6. Allergic conjunctivits
It can be seasonal or perennial conjunctivitis resulting in redness,itching,burning sensation.
7. Infective conjunctivits
It can be due to viral or bacterial and results in swollen red eyes with discharge and irritation.
It is the inflammation of the lids.
It is the swelling on the eyelids due to blocked meibomian glands.In case of recurrent stye we have to rule out refractive errors,allergy,blepharitis or even diabetes.
10. Nasolacrimal duct obstruction
It results in watering eyes due to obstructed lacrimal drainage system. It can be congenital and is mostly resolved in the first year with sac massage.
Here is an informative Infographic on Eye Care Tips for Children.
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2. Konstantopoulos A, Yadegarfar G, Elgohary M. Near work, education, family history and myopia in Greek conscripts. Eye 2008;22:542-546.
3. Ip JM, Saw SM, Rose KA, et al. Role of near work in myopia: findings in a sample of Australian school children. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2008;49:2903-2910
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8. Refractive Error – Aravind Eye Care (WHO collaborating centre for preventing blindness)