By Diana Smith,
According to the World Health Organization , approximately 19 million children have impaired vision, of which 12 million have vision impairment due to refractive errors, while an estimated 1.4 million of them have irreversible blindness. Eyesight problems can have long-term consequences for children, preventing them from being able to learn properly, and making everyday life more difficult. Near-sightedness, farsightedness and amblyopia are just some of the eyesight problems children all over the world face.
A misalignment of the eyes is called strabismus. If somebody suffers from strabismus, their eyes may turn in, out, down or up. However, if the condition is discovered early in its development, it can be corrected. Once the properly aligned eye is patched, it’ll force the misaligned one to work properly. If this doesn’t seem to be a helpful solution, the patient can also undergo surgery or wear specially designed glasses to repair their vision.
Refractive errors occur when the shape of the eye doesn’t bend (i.e. refract) light properly, which results in blurred images. Refractive errors can be in the form of nearsightedness, far-sightedness, or astigmatism. A child who’s been diagnosed with near-sightedness i.e. myopia has poor distance vision. This is not a serious condition, and can easily be treated with glasses or contact lenses. Farsightedness, on the other hand, means that a child can’t see well up close, and the condition is also treated with glasses or contacts. Astigmatism is an imperfect curvature of the front surface of the eye that distorts vision.
Amblyopia or lazy eye is a more severe form strabismus, which can occur when the eye becomes chronically misaligned. The causes of amblyopia can be crossed eyes and a difference in the refractive error between the two eyes. It’s vital that amblyopia is treated early in its development, otherwise it can cause irreversible visual loss in the affected eye. That’s why it’s paramount that a child has regular eye exams at a Sydney optometrist, so that any potential problem may be detected on time. The problem can easily be treated with a temporary eyepatch or glasses, before the brain learns to ignore the problem and make it a permanent visual impairment.
Retinopathy of prematurity
Retinopathy of prematurity causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in the retina which enables us to see. It’s a disease that occurs in premature babies, and the growth of this condition can even cause blindness. While some forms of retinopathy of prematurity are mild and correct themselves, others require surgery. Since ROP shows no symptoms, it’s crucial that premature babies have regular eye exam so that the problem is detected on time.
Congenital glaucoma can be genetic; it is a rare condition that happens in infants as a result of high pressure in the eye that may occur if the eye drainage canals didn’t manage to develop properly before birth. It can be treated with medication and surgery.
How you can help your child
The sooner an eye problem is diagnosed, the more efficiently it will be solved. Therefore, it’s necessary for a child to have an eye examination at least once a year. If eye problems run in the family, then the exams should be more frequent and parents should pay more attention to their child’s behaviour, so they notice if their child has vision problems. Frequent blinking, seeing double, losing place when reading, covering one eye, frequent headaches, and holding reading materials close to the face are just some of the signs that indicate your child is having some sort of visual impairment, and should visit an optometrist to find out what eye problem they’re dealing with.
Strabismus, refractive errors, amblyopia, retinopathy of prematurity and congenital glaucoma are just some of the eye problems children may face, but luckily, they’re all treatable. However, it’s essential that children have regular eye examinations so that any problem can be discovered on time and treated without surgery.