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Eye Care for Children

By Suzanne Erpenbach, COT

September is here and our children are back in school and busy with all kinds of extracurricular activities. Good vision is very important to a child’s development, success in school and overall well-being. Most of our children receive a vision screening at school, but parents can be on the watch for any potential vision problems also. There are a couple of conditions that require early detection in order to be treated effectively:

Common Eye Problems in Children 

  • Amblyopia, sometimes called “lazy eye”, results in poor vision in one eye. If untreated during childhood, this can lead to permanent vision loss or impairment in the affected eye
  • Strabismus, sometimes called “cross-eyed’, is a misalignment of the eyes. Both eyes do not aim at the same object. If one eye is misaligned constantly, amblyopia may result in that eye. Treatment usually includes patching the properly aligned eye to force the misaligned eye to work harder. Surgery or eyeglasses may also be part of the treatment.
  • Nearsightedness, or myopia, means that near vision is clear but distance vision is blurry. This is usually corrected with glasses.
  • Farsightedness, or hyperopia, means that near vision is blurry. This is also treated with glasses.
    Astigmatism can cause vision to be blurry at all distances. Treatment includes glasses.

Some symptoms that parents can watch for would include:

  • Holding books or other objects close to his/her face
  • Eyes that seem to cross or drift
  • Poor school performance
  • Difficulty when reading and writing
  • Trouble seeing information on the board at school
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Headaches or eye pain
  • Taking longer than normal to complete homework

Parents should take care to help protect their children's vision  If you note any of these symptoms or your child begins to complain about his vision, schedule a full eye exam with your eye doctor.

Eye Care, Vision, and Safety

If your child needs glasses, there are a few safety tips to consider. Younger children should have plastic frames and all children should wear lenses made of impact-resistant plastic or polycarbonate lenses. Even if your child does not need glasses, protective eye wear is still a good idea when children are participating in sports activities. Many eye injuries can be prevented by using appropriate protective eyewear. Good safety practices around the home can also prevent many potential accidents that could result in eye injury and loss of vision.

This is also the time of the year when children are often exposed to “pink eye” or conjunctivitis. This condition involves the thin, filmy membrane that covers the inside of the eyelid and the white part of the eye. The eye appears red or pink and there is usually a discharge making the eye feel sticky. This can be contagious and usually requires a visit to the eye doctor to determine which medication or treatment would be best.

Another common eye problem occurs when one of the eyelash follicles becomes infected causing a small bump on the eyelid that is usually sore to the touch. This is called a “stye” and is usually treated by using a hot, wet washcloth held over the affected lid for a few minutes several times during the day. If this is not successful, your eye doctor will determine the best treatment.

Complete eye exams are an important tool in a child’s overall health, and a great way to help insure success at school and enjoyment of life.

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