Eye defects in children – how to recognize them?

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The organ of sight is one of the most basic human senses. It enables normal functioning and, in the case of children, also proper development. Efficient eyes are necessary both for learning and playing! The need for correction of vision defects affects not only people over 40, young people who work intensively in front of digital screens, but also the youngest. As the research shows, myopia itself may occur even in preschool children! So how to recognize and treat eye diseases in the youngest? Find out!

Vision defects in children

Although vision defects seem to be the domain of adults, they are also present in children. The most common ones include:

  • nearsightedness,
  • hyperopia,
  • divergent or convergent eye positioning – strabismus,
  • astigmatism.

Myopia

Myopia is sometimes called the defect of civilization, which affects both children and adults. It is considered to be one of the most frequent sight defects nowadays. Lifestyle such as long hours in front of the computer or straining the eyes in low light and lack of breaks are to some extent responsible for the development of this condition.

In case of Myopia the light rays are focused in front of the retina. This leads to impaired vision for objects at a distance. On the other hand, objects nearby can be seen well. The most common causes of myopia include an under-matched, over-powered optical system in the eye, as well as an overly long eyeball.

Usually myopia develops in children and adolescents until the end of puberty and growth of the eye, i.e. at the age of 21. It progresses much less frequently into adulthood. The basic method of correction is wearing glasses or contact lenses. It enables correct vision and significantly improves comfort of everyday functioning.

Hyperopia

Hyperopia is a vision defect that is difficult to diagnose in its early stages. Young patients often try to cope with the disease on their own, even unconsciously. If the defect is not large, constant tightening of the eyeball muscles allows vision thanks to eye accommodation. However, such compensatory mechanisms lead to eye strain, eye and head pain, tearing and even convergent strabismus.

Hyperopia, similarly to myopia, is the abnormal focusing of light rays, however, this time the light entering the child’s eyes is focused behind the retina. This results in the formation of images with blurred shapes. As a result, objects in the vicinity, such as books, notebooks and telephones, are blurred. Unfortunately, distance vision is also affected because the image is incorrectly projected onto the retina. This is usually a congenital vision defect. Due to the physiology of the eye, each of us is born with a defect of hyperopia, which decreases in the process of emetropization due to the growth of the eyeball.

The cause of hyperopia may be too low power of the eye’s optical system or too short eyeball. The primary method of correcting hyperopia is regular wear of corrective glasses or contact lenses

Strabismus

A disorder in which the eyes are not aligned properly. Its cause is usually a disorder in the functioning of the eyeball muscles. In most cases, strabismus is usually corrected with proper treatment. When treating strabismus, it is important to determine the root cause of the condition, such as hyperopia. The most common treatment methods include corrective lenses, and regular exercises such as orthoptics. If these methods fail, surgery is an option.

Astigmatism

Astigmatism is a defect of the eye, also known as “color-blindness”, which refers to the lack of rotational symmetry of the cornea, i.e. the difference in the curvature of the cornea in its different sections. In this defect, the visual system misrepresents the given object and, as a consequence, it is falsely shaped horizontally, vertically or obliquely and, for example, stretched horizontally or vertically. Usually astigmatism is corrected with corrective glasses, which enables the child to function and develop normally.

What to pay attention to?

As experts point out – the basic method of protection and prevention of vision defects is their regular examination. In the case of young children and adolescents, regular attendance at eye examinations is relatively simple. Health balances include an eye examination. Such examinations are conducted:

  • after age 2,
  • after the age of 4,
  • after age 6,
  • at age 13,
  • at the end of secondary school, i.e. usually between the ages of 16 and 18.

If the balance results are normal, it does not exempt us from observing our child. On a daily basis it is worth paying attention to whether the child squints, tilts his/her head or has an uneven alignment of the eyes when looking at objects at a distance or near. Does your child have difficulties with reading or writing? Or complains of headaches or blurred vision? These feelings are a sign that you should see a vision care specialist.

My child has a visual defect! What to do next?

First of all, you should not panic. Diagnosis of the vision defect is not a sentence. It is the moment, when you should change your habits and customs to the ones, which will help you to take care of your child’s eyesight condition. Many defects, which are detected early enough and are properly controlled, enable normal functioning.

According to specialists, healthy habits are the most important. Make sure that your child does not spend every free moment in front of the computer screen or telephone. In addition, when using electronic devices, take care of the appropriate distance between the eyes and the monitor. If it is a laptop, the minimum distance is 40 cm. And if the child wants to watch a fairy tale, it will be better if he watches it on a large TV screen, sitting on the couch, and not on the carpet directly in front.

Unfortunately, the present times are merciless for the eyesight of our children. Electronic devices are not only tools for play, but also for learning. Therefore, it is often impossible to give up the computer or tablet. In such situations, let’s remind our children about regular breaks, e.g. 2-3 minutes every 30 minutes.

Another important rule is appropriate lighting. Appropriate lighting should be chosen for reading, studying or spending time in front of the computer. It should be located over the child’s head or on the side, so that it does not cause the glare effect, does not reflect in the screen and is not covered by e.g. a writing hand. You can find more about methods to support the correction of vision defects in children here.

So, if you are diagnosed with a refractive error, it will be crucial to follow the recommendations of a specialist. Optometrist or ophthalmologist should choose appropriate methods of control and, for example, write a prescription for corrective glasses. The next step will be to go, along with the prescription, to an experienced optician, who will help choose the right glasses and frames for our child. You can find recommended specialists here: MamWzrokOk.pl

Then, individually fitted corrective glasses should be worn in accordance with the expert’s recommendation, e.g. for everyday use or reading or working/playing at the computer. You should also remember about regular check-ups. Their frequency will indicate us the specialist, and on a daily basis remember about healthy habits and regular breaks.

Bibliography:

  • A. Topaczewska-Cabanek et al. Epidemiology of vision defects in children and adolescents of selected schools in Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki. Family Medicine & Primary Care Review 2012, 14, 3: 441-443.
  • Z. Owczarek. Development of a model / guidelines for vision screening for preschool children. Optics 2020; 4:40 – 42.
  • A. Pogrzebielski. Visual defects in children. Practical medicine [Doctors answer your questions]. Accessed online, 01.08.2021.

Photo: materials from the client

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