Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Explaining the Importance of Eye Health for Children

The health of our children’s eyes is crucial to both their academic and physical development. To give our children the very best chance of achieving at school, it is extremely important that they have all the necessary tools available to do this. Having good vision will ensure that they are able to see the projector chart clearly and also read comfortably for long periods. Being comfortable playing sport is also important for children for both health and social reasons. Having good vision and eyes that work perfectly well together is fundamental to hand eye coordination and it is a well-known fact that children with a lazy eye are often not as well co-ordinated. You can see this for yourself by asking someone to throw you a ball whilst you have one eye closed. You will see it makes things a lot more difficult! Having 2 eyes that function together is known as stereopsis and it is the part of our vision that is crucial in depth perception.

To ensure the health of your children’s eyes the single most important thing you can do is to take them for an eye test as early as possible. Often children will display signs of visual problems such as screwing their eyes up but this is not always the case. Often parents take their children for an eye test thinking there is no problem at all with the vision and are shocked to find out that they have poor vision or a lazy. Providing the child is young enough, then the Optometrist is likely to be able to treat the lazy eye but if your child is over the age of 7 years old then treatment will not be possible. The reason for this is that up to the age of 7 years old our children’s eyes are still developing and therefore will respond to treatment. The most common cause of a lazy eye is as follows:

Difference of prescription: If your child has no prescription in one eye but does have a prescription in the other eye e.g. +3.00 then this eye is likely to develop into a lazy eye if left untreated. If such an instance arises your Optometrist will first prescribe glasses to equalise the prescription in the 2 eyes and then prescribe a schedule of eye patching. This is also called occlusion therapy and simply means patching up the good eye to stimulate the bad eye to start working and developing better. Depending on how lazy the eye is, your Optometrist will instruct you to patch the good eye up for a certain number of hours per day when performing tasks such as reading or watching television. The main problem with a lazy eye is that once you are beyond the age of 7 years old, there is nothing that can be done to treat it, not even laser eye treatment.

Turn in the eye: This is something that you are more likely to notice as a parent but it can sometimes be intermittent or small in size making it less noticeable. The most likely direction of an eye turn is inwards but it is also possible for the eye to turn out as well. If your child is found to have an eye turn (strabismus) then your Optometrist will first see if eye glasses can ‘straighten the eyes’ and if not, your child is likely to need eye surgery. The eye that is turning in will have developed into a lazy eye and regardless of whether eye surgery is needed or not, your child will also need occlusion therapy.

In summary, if you are reading this article as a parent with a young child then you should take them for an eye test regardless of whether you think they have a problem or not. Often children don’t know themselves if they have a visual problem and sometimes if they do know they may purposefully hide it from you as they may not want to wear eye glasses! In most instances, your child will respond to treatment providing they are diagnosed early enough.

This article was written by Optometrist Tim, who has many years of experience in paediatric optometry. Tim also writes guides for his own website which includes information on laser eye surgery cost and laser eye surgery forums. Being a father himself Tim understands the importance of our child’s development and ensuing they have perfect eyes will go a long way in seeing them succeed at school. Good vision and more importantly equal vision will give them the tools to success in all aspects of life.

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