Eyes Are Important
Your eyes work from the moment you wake up to the moment you close them to go to sleep and they need to be cared for.
Check New Born Babies For Good Eye Health
Newborns should be checked for general eye health by a pediatrician or family physician in the hospital nursery.
High-risk newborns (including premature infants), those with a family history of eye problems, and those with obvious eye irregularities should be examined by an eye doctor.
In the first year of life, all infants should be routinely screened for eye health during checkups.
Around age 3½, kids should undergo eye health screenings and visual acuity tests (or tests that measure sharpness of vision) with their doctors.
Around age 5, kids should have their vision and eye alignment evaluated by their doctors. Those who fail either test should be examined by an eye doctor.
After age 5, further routine screenings should be done at school or the doctor's office, or after the appearance of symptoms such as squinting or frequent headaches.
Kids who wear prescription glasses or contacts should have annual checkups to screen for vision changes.
Watch your child for evidence of poor vision or crossed eyes. If you notice any eye problems, have your child examined immediately so that the problem doesn't become permanent.
If caught early, eye conditions often can be reversed.
Signs of Vision Problems in Young Kids
In young children, vision problems often aren't obvious.
Everyone has a vision of what children's eye problems look like: Squinting, sitting too close to the television, rubbing their eyes. Though those can be symptoms of vision issues, sometimes there are no signs your child isn't seeing well.
In the first few months of life, infants can only see clearly objects that are 8 to 10 inches from their face. It isn't until 12 to 16 weeks that their eyesight begins improving, and they start seeing things more clearly and further away.
Over the next year, kids then develop depth perception, eye-body coordination, eye-hand coordination, and the ability to judge distances. It's rare for children to have vision problems at this age.
Vision problems in kids tend to emerge between 18 months and 4 years old. The two most common vision issues are:
A crossed or wandering eye, which troubles 3% to 5% of children. Symptoms include an eye that drifts or appears crossed in respect to the other eye.
• Uneven focus, where one eye is more farsighted than the
other, affects 2% to 3% of kids. This vision problem is the
hardest to detect, because young children don't know their
vision is compromised.
Uneven focus or a slightly wandering eye may not seem that alarming, but if either condition goes untreated, a child's stronger eye -- the one that sees further, or focuses better -- slowly becomes their dominant eye. The brain starts ignoring the images coming from the weaker eye, and stops developing the nerve connections leading to it. By the age of 9 or 10, the vision loss in that weaker eye is usually permanent.
The compromised vision in that weaker eye, called amblyopia or lazy eye, doesn't have to happen. It can be stopped and reversed, but it needs to be caught early.
Your child's first vision screening may be done by your family doctor, pediatrician, or an eye specialist.
Vision problems can develop before a baby is born. Sometimes, parts of the eyes don't form the way they should. A child’s eyes might look fine, but the brain has trouble processing the information they send. The optic nerve sends pictures to the brain, so if the nerve doesn't form correctly, the baby's brain won't receive the messages needed for sight.
Blindness can be genetic or it can be caused if something hurts the eye or by illness. That's why it is important to protect your eyes when you play sports and to eat healthy for healthy eyes and good vision.
Eat for Good Vision
Studies have shown that nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zinc, and vitamins C and E may help ward off age-related vision problems such as macular degeneration and cataracts.
Eating a well-balanced diet also helps you maintain a healthy weight and avoid diabetes which is the leading cause of blindness in adults. Eat these foods regularyly for good eye health:
Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale
Salmon, tuna, and other oily fish
Eggs, nuts, beans, and other non-meat protein sources
Oranges and other citrus fruits or juices
Wear Sunglasses for Good Vision
Choose sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays. Wraparound lenses help protect your eyes from the side. Polarized lenses reduce glare when driving. Protect your eyes from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays.
If you wear contact lenses, some offer UV protection. It's still a good idea to wear sunglasses for more protection.
Safety Eye Gear
Children should be encouraged in the habit of wearing safety eye gear such as helmets with protective face masks or sports goggles with polycarbonate lenses to shield your eyes when playing sport.
At The Computer
Staring at a computer screen can cause eyestrain, blurry vision, problems focusing at a distance, dry eyes and headaches.
Position your computer so that your eyes are level with the top of the monitor. Try to avoid glare on your computer from windows and lights. Use an anti-glare screen if needed.
Every 20 minutes, rest your eyes by looking 20 feet away for 20 seconds. At least every two hours, get up and take a 15-minute break.
A full eye check should be done by the age of three.
If that initial screening finds a vision problem, the next step is having a more in-depth examination done by an ophthalmologist. If that screening uncovers amblyopia, treatments may include:
• Eye patches or eyedrops
• Prescription lenses
Amblyopia is a secondary condition; it happens because the eye is misaligned or focus is uneven. So the first step is to treat the underlying problem, and that's most often done with eye patches, eye drops, or special glasses.
The goal of using patches, drops, or special lenses is to blur or occlude the vision in the stronger eye so the weaker eye has to work harder. This also encourages the brain to start sending the correct visual signals to the weaker eye.
Prescription lenses can improve the weaker eye's focus or misalignment. Surgery on the eye muscles is recommended if patches, drops, or special lenses have not corrected the amblyopia.
Vision treatments last until the weak eye is better. For most kids, that means wearing a patch for about a year, but it can be shorter or even longer.
Detecting Eye and Vision Problems in Children
Most of the time, vision problems aren't obvious, and the best way to catch issues early is through vision screenings.
Warning signs may include eye rubbing, tearing, swelling, redness, pus, crust, sensitivity to light, bulging or jiggly eyes, droopy eyelids, white, yellow, or gray-white material in the pupil.
If your child has any of these symptoms, or their eyes change in any way, or you're worried about their vision, don't wait until they are 3 years old to get that first vision test. Do it now.