Children's Eye Care
Proper eye care during childhood and infancy can prevent long term vision loss and blindness. When eye roblems go undetected they can lead to learning disabilities and behavioral problems.
Babies and young children often cannot express, or may not even be aware of, vision and other eye problems. Early detection may save your child’s sight. There are many symptoms to watch for in children:
- Watery eyes
- Light sensitivity
- White, gray, or yellow matter in the pupil
- An entirely white pupil
- Persistent redness
- Persistent pus or crust
- Bulging eyes
- Drooping eyelids
- Eyes that flutter from side to side or up and down
- Eyes that are crossed, pointing away from each other, or pointing in different directions
- Frequent rubbing of the eyes
- Frequent squinting
- Tilting of the head
- Any noticeable change in the eyes
Babies should start making steady eye contact by two or three months old, and should be able to follow objects with their eyes at three months.
Eye Exams by an Eye Doctor
A baby’s eyes should be checked at birth, and then during their regular visits with the pediatrician. If your baby shows symptoms of eye problems, schedule an exam with an ophthalmologist right away. All children should have a complete children’s eye exam with an eye doctor by the age of three. That is more than just a vision test – it includes a complete health assessment of the eyes.
Before starting kindergarten and every year or two after that if their eyes are healthy, the complete ophthalmological exam should be repeated. Children who require corrective lenses should have an eye exam at least once a year.
Many schools offer vision screenings performed by the school nurse. These screenings are a valuable service for children whose parents cannot or will not take them to an eye doctor. But they do not replace a complete eye exam performed by an ophthalmologist. School nurses do not have the training or equipment to detect many sight-threatening eye conditions, and relying on these screenings can permanently cost your child his or her vision.
Pink eye, infections, and allergies
No matter how many times you tell them not to, children stick their fingers in their eyes. They touch everything. They do not wash their hands. Eye infections are contagious, and eventually most children will get one. Red, itchy, irritated eyes, usually accompanied by crustiness or yellow discharge, can be caused by infections or allergies. Most eye infections are treated with antibiotic ointment.
If your child has these symptoms do not send him or her to school or day care, because it could be contagious. Make an appointment to see the eye doctor right away. If you already have antibiotic ointment, do not let your child use it. Old ointment can harbor bacteria and make the infection worse.
Eye health and education
Vision and eye health have a major impact on a child’s education. Vision screenings using an eye chart only detect about 5 percent of vision problems in children. Visual skills encompass far more than the ability to focus on distant objects. The eyes must work together properly, be able to focus on the page or computer screen and move properly across the page. Poor vision and eye strain can cause frustration, physical pain such as headaches, and an inability to learn in a classroom setting. For more on childhood computer use, please see Computers and Children’s Vision.
Many problems that are misdiagnosed as behavioral or psychological problems are really the result of poor vision or eye strain. These problems can be detected and treated if the child has a thorough eye exam.
If your child has not has an eye exam recently, and displays any symptoms of vision problems, or is having difficulty in school, contact an ophthalmologist today.