Sadly, regular eye screenings fall by the wayside when life gets busy, but it’s important to keep kids’ eye health in focus.
Words by Tamara Clarke
Keeping your child healthy is no small feat and requires a great deal of coordination.
From choosing the right doctors to keeping up with vaccinations, the list of health matters needing your attention can be overwhelming.
With so many aspects of your child’s health to manage, eye care might get lost in the shuffle but Abu Dhabi World makes the case for why it should be a top priority.
Maintaining healthy eyes is a critical part of development that can affect a child socially
as well as academically.
Dr Syed Ali, paediatric ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital Centre in Abu Dhabi, asserts that healthy eyes are essential for a child’s normal development:
“If a child is not seeing well, his or her learning is seriously affected; the physical milestones can also be delayed. A child’s social skills and confidence are also linked to having good vision.”
Preventative eye care starts at birth and should become a lifelong endeavour.
“Newborns are checked by a paediatrician at birth and again at eight weeks to rule out cataract and glaucoma. It is important to have children’s eyes regularly checked as early diagnosis can save a child’s vision for life,” he continues.
Dr Syed also notes that children should have yearly eye tests, which lead to better outcomes, but this is where caregivers often drop the ball.
All children are advised to see a vision specialist around three to four years of age. This check-up, which coincides with the time frame a child is likely to start school or nursery, is aptly called a preschool screening, and parents should note that this milestone also marks the beginning of establishing healthy habits.
Spotting Eye Problems
While eye health screenings and visual acuity tests, which measure the sharpness of vision, can diagnose eye problems, parents are the first line of defence.
You should watch your child for signs of poor vision and if you notice any problems, have your child examined right away. If caught early, some conditions can be corrected.
When it comes to spotting eye problems, the age of the child is critical. In small children, watch for constant eye rubbing, extreme sensitivity to light and abnormal alignment or movement of the eyes.
In school-aged children, their mannerisms give clues about possible eye problems.
Dr Sayed explains: “In general, going very close to a book to read or do homework or going close to the TV are some of the symptoms, or squeezing their eyes to see things from a distance.
“In short-sighted children, they are found to use mobiles and tablets more than TV. With long-sighted children, they may complain of headaches or eyestrain.”
He adds: “Physicians recommend very strict and controlled screen time with regular breaks depending on the age of the child.
“If parents notice any eye movement issue like squinting, which is misalignment of eyes, especially when a child is sleepy or tired, they should not ignore it and seek urgent advice from a paediatric ophthalmologist.”
Eye doctors have specialities and optical shops provide different services than doctors.
Keeping it all straight can be quite confusing. Now that you know your child should see an eye care professional regularly, make sure you choose the right one.
Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who provide comprehensive eye care with medicine and surgery.
Paediatric ophthalmologists are doctors who have additional training to treat children’s eye problems.
Optometrists provide services that may be similar to ophthalmologists, but they don’t perform surgery.
Opticians fit and adjust eyeglasses.