Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month is recognized every August in the U.S. Its purpose is to raise awareness about the importance of children’s eye health.
Eye Health Is Critical for Development
Because most childhood learning occurs visually, eye health and good eyesight are essential for children’s physical and cognitive development. However, most preschoolers don’t receive routine eye screening, yet this important practice will identify whether a child is dealing with eye disease.
Since children just cannot be expected to understand when their eyes aren’t healthy, parents need to stay on top of vision issues. Concerning eye health, common signs to watch for include squinting, frequent eye-rubbing, as well as head-tilting or turning the head to look at objects. Children may also squeeze their eyes shut, and you may notice their eyes wandering.
Common Abnormalities in Children
Common refractive abnormalities in children are astigmatism, myopia (nearsightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness). An eye exam can detect these, as well as the more severe eye conditions such as amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (crossed eyes), ptosis (drooping of the eyelid), color deficiency, or color blindness.
A Guide to Your Child’s Vision
At Eyecare of Delaware, we’d like you to be aware of the following as children grow.
In the first few months, a baby’s central vision is still developing. A newborn baby can see, but they are still forming connections between their retinas and the brain. As their central vision develops, they will begin to focus on objects right in front of them.
By three months, a baby’s eyes should be able to focus and follow objects. In the first two months of life a baby’s eyes may appear to cross, or do the opposite – wander out to the sides – and this is usually considered normal. As visual coordination develops, the baby’s eyes will start working together to focus and follow moving objects. Be watchful, and if this isn’t happening consistently by age three months, speak with your pediatrician.
At five months of age, babies should be seeing in three dimensions. At this age, babies get better at reaching for objects because they can see how far away it is. They are now developing depth perception!
During the toddler stage it’s time to watch for misalignment. This is when one eye looks straight ahead while the other eye turns inward, outward, upward, or downward. This may be a sign of strabismus, an eye condition that affects about 4% of children in the U.S. The ability for both eyes to simultaneously focus on an object continues to develop until about age 7.
Measles is a leading cause of childhood blindness worldwide, as the virus can harm the eyes and vision in a number of ways. With new measles cases emerging in Europe and the U.S. (where the disease was once considered eradicated), it’s important to get your child vaccinated.
Limiting screen time may reduce digital eye strain and lower the risk of myopia. Studies have suggested that near-work activities (including screen time) may be connected to both myopia (nearsightedness) and digital eye strain. Encourage your child to follow the 20-20-20 rule: Look away from the screen every 20 minutes, and focus at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Blue light from digital devices is actually not harmful for children’s eyes. However, screen time should be limited late in the day to prevent sleep problems that blue light can cause. You can skip the glasses that claim to protect eyes from blue light, as supportive evidence is lacking.
The following are three less-obvious signs of childhood vision problems.
- Sudden loss of interest in activities that require eye use
- Losing their place when reading
- Turning their head to look at something in front of them
If you observe one or more of these behaviors, schedule an exam with an eye doctor for your child.
Children can get cataracts too – they may be born with cataracts or develop them later. Without the proper treatment, pediatric cataracts can cause abnormal connections between the brain and the eye that may become irreversible. Pediatric cataracts are often discovered during the eye screening at birth, or during an early pediatric vision screening.
There are three main types of color blindness, a condition that’s much more common in boys than girls. The symptoms of color blindness can be difficult to detect, and parents may only notice a problem when the child is actually learning the various colors. A child may have difficulty telling the difference between shades of the same or similar colors, and sometimes the child may have trouble differentiating red from green, or blue from yellow, and so on.
Teens and Young Adults
Eye injuries are the most common cause of blindness in children, with baseball being a leading cause of eye injuries in children ages 14 and older. Regular eyeglasses and sunglasses do not provide adequate protection from sports-related eye injuries. In fact, they could shatter on impact, causing even more damage to the eyes. Children should wear sports goggles made with polycarbonate lenses for baseball, basketball, football, racquet sports, soccer, hockey, lacrosse, paintball and other activities that carry a risk of eye injury.
Proper contact lens hygiene is challenging for many young people. Unfortunately, this puts them at higher risk for a serious eye infection that could cause impaired vision or even blindness. Watch to be sure they care for their lenses properly.
Trusted Eyecare Specialists in Delaware
When you have concerns with your vision, do not let it affect your quality of life. At Eyecare of Delaware, we can help. While we do not treat children, we help many adults with various vision concerns. Call (302) 454-8800 or request an appointment today, and get back to living life with your family to the fullest.