CHILDREN’S EYE HEALTH
Childhood myopia (short-sightedness) begins and progresses during childhood. Myopic (Short-sighted) children may complain of problems seeing distant objects such as oncoming bus-numbers, the white board in class or television. Sometimes they may tilt or turn their head, or narrow their eyes to see better. The condition is easily corrected with spectacles. However, as myopia often increases by 1 diopter (-1.00) every year till the children reach their teenage years, their vision needs to be checked at least once every year.
Reducing the risk
There is no definitive treatment to reverse myopia in children and one of the best ways to prevent myopia or slow its progression is to ensure that your child practises good eye care habits. This includes ensuring that near work is held further away, and that your child takes frequent breaks to rest their eyes. Outdoor activity should also be encouraged.
Alternatively, in cases where myopia is progressing rapidly, interventional measures such as atropine eyedrops can be considered.
Evidence indicates that progressive childhood myopia is due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Children whose parents are myopic are also more likely to be myopic, and children who spend more time indoors (reading, watching television and playing computer games) appear to be more at risk than those who spend more time outdoors.
Amblyopia (Lazy eye)
The brain and the eyes work together to produce vision. The eye focuses light on the back part of the eye known as the retina. Cells of the retina then trigger nerve signals that travel along the optic nerves to the brain. Amblyopia is the medical term used when the vision of one eye is reduced because it fails to work properly with the brain.
The eye itself looks normal, but for various reasons the brain favours the other eye. This condition is also sometimes called lazy eye. Amblyopia primarily develops in children up to the age of around 8 years.
Early diagnosis of amblyopia is important in preventing long term loss of vision as the effects of amblyopia may become permanent if left undetected or treated beyond a certain age.
Amblyopia can result from any condition that prevents the eye from focusing clearly:
- Amblyopia can be caused by the misalignment of the two eyes—a condition called strabismus. With strabismus, the eyes can cross in (esotropia) or turn out (exotropia).
- A common cause of amblyopia is the inability of one eye to focus as well as the other one, as in the case of refractive errors such as myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism.
- Occasionally, amblyopia is caused by a clouding of the front part of the eye caused by cataracts.