There are many possible causes of vision problems in children, from infancy up to adolescence. Eye screening is thus an integral part of routine paediatric check-ups so that these conditions can be detected and treated early.

 

CAUSES

  • Refractive errors – myopia, astigmatism and hyperopia
  • Squint (also known as strabismus) – this is a misalignment of the eyes and can be managed by eye patches, specially – designed spectacles or surgery
  • Congenital cataract
  • Congenital glaucoma
  • Eye injury
  • Retinoblastoma – a malignant tumour that usually appears in the first three years of life.
  • Genetic or metabolic diseases – these are usually inherited and may predispose to the development of cataract or retinoblastoma

Many of these conditions are inherited and as such, a child with a family history of these vision disorders should be screened early and regularly. Siblings of the affected child should also be screened thoroughly.

AMBLYOPIA

Amblyopia (also known as Lazy Eye) is a condition in which there is poor vision in an eye that did not develop normal sight in early childhood. If one eye is amblyopic, it means that that eye sees worse (blurry) than the other despite the best correction with glasses or contact lenses. Because vision in the weaker eye has not properly developed, the brain ignores a significant proportion of the visual information coming from the weaker eye. Since the brain doesn’t have the opportunity to use both eyes together, the person with amblyopia may never develop normal 3-D vision.

Amblyopia can occur because of a congenital cataract (cloudiness of the lens inside the eye), unequal refractive conditions (meaning the eyes have a significant difference in glasses prescription that was untreated at a young age), a droopy eyelid or strabismus (an eye turn that causes one eye to see off to the side while the other looks straight ahead).

Common treatments for amblyopia include patching of the stronger eye to encourage fine visual tasks done with the weaker eye, the use of appropriate spectacle correction, removal of any cataract or surgery to correct squints or droopy lids.  If untreated, amblyopia can lead to irreversible loss of vision in the affected eye.

 

SIGNS OF VISION PROBLEMS IN CHILDREN

These include:

  • poor visual tracking or following an object
  • poor focusing
  • constant rubbing of eyes
  • light sensitivity
  • abnormal alignment or movement of eyes
  • chronic redness or tearing
  • inability to see distant objects like road signs or the whiteboard in class
  • sitting too close to the television
  • squinting
  • a whiteness over the central front portion of the eye, instead of the usual black of the pupil

All these should prompt a thorough check-up with an eye doctor as early detection and treatment would allow for better preservation of sight and in the case of retinoblastoma, may be life-saving as well.

TREATMENT

The treatment will depend on the type of eye disorder detected, and includes:

  • spectacles
  • eye-patches
  • surgery for drooping lids or squint
  • in some cases, working with other medical and paramedical professionals in a multi disciplinary approach for an optimal outcome

The eye doctor, working hand-in-hand with the parents or caregivers, will be able to help decide which is the best form of vision correction for the child. There should also be regular follow-ups to monitor any vision changes or review the corrective methods accordingly as the child grows and develops.