Summer is just around the corner and that means sunshine and good times. While many remember to safeguard against the sun with SPF and to cooldown and hydrate, some healthcare can often be forgotten about – EYECARE. In this blog post, we will discuss common eye conditions among children, what to look for, and how to care for your children’s eyes.
Among the most common eye conditions within children is conjunctivitis otherwise known as pink eye. This is an infection of the outer membrane of the eyeball and the inner eyelid. It can be either an allergy, bacterial or a viral infection. Pink eye is highly contagious and very common - there are over 3 million cases of pink eye in the US per year. Symptoms include redness, irritation and even crusting around the eyes or discharge. If your child has pinkeye, they might have red, irritated eyes and may feel like there is sand under their eyelids. Some children’s eyes might also be very sensitive to light. Symptoms usually resolve within a few days with an anti-viral medication prescribed by a doctor.
Another common eye condition(s) is called refraction error, which means that the shape of your eye does not bend light correctly, resulting in a blurred image. This is seen in almost 30% of children and growing. If your child has blurred vision, it could be a sign of myopia (nearsightedness), where objects far away appear blurry.
Hyperopia (farsightedness) is a common vision condition in which you can see distant objects clearly, but objects nearby may be blurry. The degree of your farsightedness influences your focusing ability.
Astigmatism is a common vision problem caused by an error in the shape of the cornea. With astigmatism, the lens of the eye or the cornea, which is the front surface of the eye, has an irregular curve. This can change the way light passes, to your retina, causing blurry, fuzzy, or distorted vision.
If your child tells you that they can’t see words properly or notice any squinting or straining, then it is time to take them to get an eye exam. Other symptoms may include complaints of discomfort or fatigue, frequent eye rubbing or blinking, headaches, covering one eye, holding objects closer to face, avoiding reading or having a short attention span. If blurred vision occurs suddenly, especially if accompanied by a sharp headache, bring your child to the doctor or emergency services immediately as these can be very concerning.
Another common refractive error is strabismus or cross-eye. This is usually self-diagnosable. The main symptom of strabismus is that the eyes don’t look in the same direction at the same time, or it may appear that your child’s eyes are pointed inward. Sometimes this occurs in children when they suppress vision in a weaker eye which helps to avoid double vision but may lead to this lazy eye condition. This eye condition may also impact the child’s depth perception. Correction for strabismus normally happens with either glasses or eye muscle surgery. Strabismus surgery (eye muscle surgery) is designed to loosen or tighten the eye muscles, depending on the affliction, which realigns the eyes into the correct position.
Finally, there is amblyopia or “lazy eye.” This is one of the most common eye disorders in children (more than 200,000 cases in the US per year) and occurs when vision in one or both eyes is impaired because the eye and the brain are not properly working together. Often this occurs because there is an imbalance of the muscles positioning the eyes. It may appear that one eye is “lazy” and not following sight with the other. This condition is also treatable by a medical professional. Usually, eye patches or corrective lenses are used and the best results typically occur when the child is younger. Once corrected, the child should have normal vision and may no longer need the patch or corrective eyewear.
While these eye conditions among children are common, they can be very serious. The good news is most are often self-diagnosable and easily treated with proper care. Corrective eyewear can help most of these conditions but being aware of these conditions and noticing these problems is the first step to making sure your child has healthy eyes.