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8 warning signs of vision problems in children: When should kids have their first eye exam?

Healthy eyes are crucial to a child’s development. Eyes are an integral part of the body and must be taken care of to enable good vision and ensure a good quality of life. As parents, it becomes even more important to learn more about eye problems that affect kids and find out whether your child is suffering from any vision problem at an early stage for timely medical intervention and care. 

Most of the vision issues in children can be managed with corrective lenses. Early detection and treatment can help avoid lifelong visual impairments, and improve the life of a child – both academically and socially. Learning about vision problems that start in childhood and getting your child’s vision checked on a regular basis can promote healthy eyesight for life.

Warning signs of vision problems in children

Signs that a child may have vision problems may include:

  • Sensitivity to light or getting teary-eyed regularly
  • Avoiding activities that need near vision, such as reading a book, participating in recreational activities and sports
  • Constant headache
  • Pain in eyes
  • Frequent or repeated eye rubbing
  • Redness in eyes that is persistent
  • Having a problem in seeing nearby objects
  • Poor focusing

It is crucial to detect the first signs of vision problems and treat them at the earliest. As a parent, it is essential to look out for warning signs that may indicate vision loss in your child, said Dr Kuldeep Dole, Medical Director and Head of Community, Ophthalmology Department, H V Desai Eye Hospital, Pune.

Eye exams for kids: At what age and how often?

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), the first eye exam should be conducted at 6 months of age, and then 3 years and 5 years old for healthy children. After age 5, routine eye exams should continue till puberty. This is important because vision problems that start in childhood, when identified, are easily treatable. Moreover, children are more responsive to treatment earlier in life.

What causes vision problems in children?

Children’s eyes are very sensitive and are easily affected by infection and nutritional deficiencies – such as vitamin A deficiencies, corneal scarring, retinopathy of prematurity (in premature babies) and others. Blindness in children can also be caused by genetic mutations. High-quality eye care can help address challenges and problems. The World Health Organization estimated that there are 1.4 million blind children worldwide, and approximately three-quarters of them live in India. Childhood blindness mostly originates from genetics and premature birth. Hence, awareness about paediatric eye conditions must begin from the premarital age group as many eye conditions are genetic in nature, added Dr Dole, who is also an Orbis Volunteer Faculty.

How are eye problems in children treated?

The treatment depends upon the kind of vision impairment. It also depends on the degree of damage that has been caused already. One of the most common and effective options is wearing eyeglasses, which are the safest to treat nearsightedness (the most common vision problem among children) as it sharpens the vision according to the need of the patient.

Managing eye health in children

Here are a few tips to keep your child’s eyes healthy:

  • One of the foremost precautionary measures a parent can take is to schedule regular eye health checkups for their child starting from an early age.
  • At the growing up stage, it is important to monitor eye health as children are at a higher risk of developing infections and injuries through sports and outdoor exposure.
  • Squint evaluation and proper management has to start in time as once amblyopia (a vision development disorder in which an eye fails to achieve normal visual acuity) sets in, it’s very difficult to reverse the sam, even with prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses, after the 10 years of age – as by that age neuroplasticity reduces significantly.
  • Maintain a healthy, balanced diet that can support eye development. Include green leafy vegetables and iron-rich foods that promote sharp, healthy eyesight.

If your child wears prescription glasses or contacts, make sure that he/she has regular checkups by an eye specialist to screen for vision changes.

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