Since children often accept their own reality as fact, they will equally accept their sight as it is; they do not realise when they are incurring drastic changes or whether their eyes are as good as their peers. Therefore, as parents, the responsibility lies with you to detect changes in your child’s sight, however difficult this may be.
As a parent myself, I can understand how such health issues can fall to the wayside amongst the humdrum of everyday commitments and other more obvious forms of crises which scatter our weeks. However, it is important to stay aware of the subtle changes to your child’s eyes by noticing specific behaviours of theirs. This is especially important because eye diseases are often much easier to treat when children are still young and developing.
So, this week’s blog will outline 5 key behavioural changes which parents can monitor to inform them about their child’s eyes.
It will also direct readers to 2 important, preventative tips that can be taken to ensure that your child has the best opportunity to grow healthy eyes and maintain a good vision.
These are the 5 signs to be aware of:
If your child is experiencing headaches often, then it is possible that it is caused by eye straining. As a parent, you can watch out for this and also look to see if your child is straining and scrunching their eyes when reading. This is a possible sign of long-sightedness. Because of this, your child will have difficulty focusing on items which are near to them. The most common symptom of this is headaches and eye fatigue as they strain their eyes to see more clearly.
In addition to this, complaining of headaches can also be a sign of an astigmatism; a minor eye condition which is grouped with near-sightedness and far-sightedness. Your child can have this refractive error from birth and it would present in their eyesight as blurred vision.
2. Eye rubbing
If you notice that your child is often rubbing their eyes, this could be due to eye fatigue. As mentioned above, eye fatigue is a result of straining the eyes to see more clearly. Eye fatigue is a symptom of long-sightedness and astigmatism, so if you are noticing both headaches and eye rubbing in your child, it is definitely time for an eye test.
3. Itchy eyes
Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is an allergic reaction in the eye which presents as itchy eyes. This itchiness is also often paired with redness and streaming tears. If your child has redness around the eyes, swollen eyelids, or wakes up with a yellow crust on their eyelashes, it could be conjunctivitis. It is best to contact us for an adequate treatment of conjunctivitis.
4. Sitting very close to the TV or computer
If you notice that your child sits very close to the TV or computer, then this is a sign that they are struggling to see from far. It is therefore possible that they could have myopia, or near-sightedness. If your child is very young, it is worth asking their carers or teachers if they are having difficulty seeing the whiteboard or other wall charts at school.
As mentioned, if they are holding their books or iPads closer than normal it could be a sign of far-sightedness. All children should be seen first by an ophthalmologist (before an optometrist) for an eye exam.
5. Unusual clumsiness
The final sign that I tell parents to look out for is unusual clumsiness. Although this is difficult to measure and is down to personal opinion, this is an important sign that could signal eye conditions. This could be an unusually clumsy child, or one that has noticeable problems with hand-eye co-ordination, which can sometimes be due to poor vision.
Other conditions that this could explain is strabismus or a squint, also known as being cross-eyed. Because of the eye pointing in different ways, your child will then have difficulty focusing on the same thing. This happens to approximately 5% of children and treatment is usually very successful. As an adult, you can look out for crossed eyes. If left untreated, strabismus can lead to a lazy eye so it is important to see an eye doctor if these symptoms appear.
Lazy eyes are childhood conditions where vision may not develop properly and usually happens in one eye. It is also known as amblyopia and happens because one or both eyes are unable to build a strong link to the brain. Approximately 1 in 50 children will develop a lazy eye.
Now for my two preventative tips:
1. Regular eye tests
Routine eye checks are often offered soon after your child has been born so that any issues can be picked up and managed straight away.
Your child’s eyes can be checked at multiple stages as they grow up; 72 hours after birth, between 6-8 weeks, between 1-2 years and between 4-5 years. However, if any of the above behaviours are noticed it is important to book an eye exam for your child irrespective of those markers. As mentioned, most eye conditions are easier to treat whilst your child is still young and developing. We recommend booking an appointment for your family at our associate Optometrists, Oxia Optical.
Contact Oxia Optical on:
+27 21 426 4842
Or visit their website: https://www.oxiaoptical.co.za/make-an-appointment
2. New products
My second suggestion would be to manage screen time and UV. The former is a new preventative measure which has come with the digital age. Zeiss is one of the companies which are at the forefront of eye lenses and has been focusing on the effect of screens on our eyes from a young age to adulthood. They are offering cutting-edge technology and breakthrough products which could prevent eye damage in your child. These are the two products I would recommend:
Blue Light Protection Glasses
Exposure to blue light from digital devices may cause digital eye strain and may decrease melatonin production. This light can therefore hinder the sleep of your child, so wearing these glasses in the afternoons and evening can help your child with their sleep patterns.
Sunglass-level UV Protection Glasses
Did you know that children are exposed to an average of 3X the UV radiation of an adult? Optical companies like ZEISS have incorporated UVProtect Technology as a standard feature in every ZEISS lens for this exact reason. This technology is there to make sure your child's eyes are protected from all harmful UVA and UVB rays. https://www.personalizedvision.com/zeiss-digital
It is important to look at different optical company websites and become informed about what is available and what could be a practical solution for your children.