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When should you take your child to an eye doctor?

Sightsavers 21 February 2014 Child having an eye test

Eyes are the windows to the world. Most of our learning and pleasure, which are essential for overall development, are linked to our sense of vision. It is therefore important that adequate attention be given to eye health, especially for children since they are in the formative years of their lives.

According to ‘Prevent Blindness America’, one in every four school-age children may suffer from some form of eye disorder. Since, poor vision can significantly impact a child’s ability to learn and perform well at school, it is essential to make sure that they have healthy eyes.

Children should have their pre-primary eye examination done once they enter school (usually at five or six years of age especially if you inspect any eye related symptom). In fact, it is best to have school-age children to go for regular eye health exams each year.

The most common eye disorder that can affect children in this age group is refractive error i.e. difficulty in clearly focusing on near and distant objects. Apart from this, children may also suffer from other common diseases such as allergies and infections which although do not affect the vision but are very discomforting. These can be easily identified during a regular eye examination by a trained eye specialist.

Other significant but relatively rarer eye diseases seen in children are cataract, squint (crossed eyes) and even glaucoma. These diseases need a detailed eye examination often with dilation, if symptoms are noticed during the initial eye health assessment.

In addition to yearly eye check-ups, parents must also be on the lookout for symptoms of eye disease in children. This is especially important since children rarely complain about eye problems themselves. Some of the commonly noticeable symptoms in children affected by vision disorders are:

  • Constant rubbing of the eyes
  • Sitting too close to the television set
  • Difficulty in reading the blackboard
  • Blinking more than usual
  • Holding objects too close to the face
  • Frequent headaches
  • Extremely watery, swollen or red eyes
  • Blinking more than usual
  • Facial expressions indicating eye stress

Additionally, children should also be checked for eye disorders if they squint, the eyes do not line up, or if one eye appears crossed. Regular consultation with the ophthalmologist is also important if there is a history of eye health problems in the family.

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