By Holly Bonner
Each month, the American Academy of Ophthalmology focuses its national public education efforts on specific advocacy topics relating to ocular health. August has been designated as Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month. As parents begin to schedule those end of summer health appointments, it’s important to remember to include an annual eye screening. Your children’s eyes should be regularly examined during pediatric well-child visits beginning around the age of three. These screenings may help detect refractive errors such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism as well as the following diseases:
- Amblyopia (lazy eye):Amblyopia, also known as lazy eye, is decreased vision that results from abnormal visual development in infancy and early childhood and is the leading cause of decreased vision among children. This condition develops when nerve pathways between the brain and the eye aren’t properly stimulated. As a result, the brain favors one eye, usually due to poor vision in the other eye causing the brain to ignore signals from the other eye. Possible treatments include eye patches, eyedrops, and glasses/contacts, or in some cases surgical intervention.
- Strabismus (crossed eyes): Strabismus, or crossed eyes, is a condition in which the eyes do not line up properly. Indications that your child may have this disorder could be their eyes looking in different directions, with each eye focusing on a different object. Strabismus is very common, affecting 4% of children age 6 and younger. This eye condition tends to run in families and may be corrected with eyeglasses and/or surgery
- Ptosis (drooping of the eyelid):Ptosis, or eyelid drooping, in infants and children is when the upper eyelid is lower than it should be. This may occur in one or both eyes. Ptosis in children is often due to a problem with the muscle that raises the eyelid. A nerve problem in the eyelid can also cause it to droop. Eyelid lift surgery can repair drooping upper eyelids.
- Color deficiency (color blindness): Most of us share a common color vision sensory experience. Some people, however, have a color vision deficiency, which means their perception of colors is different from what most of us see. The most severe forms of these deficiencies are referred to as color blindness. People with color blindness aren’t aware of differences among colors that are obvious to the rest of us. People who don’t have the more severe types of color blindness may not even be aware of their condition unless they’re tested in a clinic or laboratory. The main symptom of color blindness in children is difficulty in distinguishing colors or in making mistakes when identifying colors.
If you or your pediatrician suspects that your child may have a vision problem, you can make an appointment with your local pediatric ophthalmologist for further testing. It is important to note there are additional warning signs that may indicate a possible vision problem with your child. Parents should be on alert for the following:
- Sitting close to the TV or holding a book too close
- Tilting their head
- Frequent rubbing of the eyes
- Short attention span (dependent on the child’s age)
- Turning of an eye in or out
- Sensitivity to light
- Difficulty with eye-hand-body coordination when playing ball or bike riding
- Avoiding coloring activities, puzzles and other detailed activities
- Disinterest in reading or viewing distant objects
- Poor school performance – even in a pre-school environment
Another component of maintaining healthy vision is keeping your children’s eyes safe. Unfortunately, preventable eye injuries are the leading cause of vision loss in kids. Each year, there are approximately 42,000 sports-related eye injuries every year in America. Sadly, most of these result in permanent, irreversible vision loss for the child. You can help prevent your child from being one of the more than 12 million children who suffer from vision impairment by following two specific rules.
Rule #1: Wear Protective Eye Wear:All children should wear protective eyewear while participating in sports or recreational activities. Parents should invest in sports related eye protection made with polycarbonate lenses for baseball, basketball, football, racquet sports, soccer, hockey, lacrosse, and paintball.
Rule #2: Check the Recommended Age Limit on All Toy Purchases: We recently posted an article on our 20/20 blog relating to summer toys and eye injuries. We encourage all our readers to purchase age-appropriate toys for the children in your lives. Avoid projectile toys such as darts, bows and arrows, and missile-firing toys. In addition, look for toys marked with “ASTM”, which means the product meets the national safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
Low Visions Specialists of Maryland and Virginia wants you and your children to have a successful school year. We encourage you to schedule a yearly comprehensive eye exam for everyone in your family. In addition, please remember our recommended rules for maintaining your children’s eye safety to keep them free from injury. Parents play the most integral role in maintaining eye health and implementing safety measures every day of the year. For more tips and suggestions about your family’s eye health, follow Low Vision Specialists of Maryland and Virginia on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.