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Children's Eye Health

Updated on August 16, 2014

Regular eye examinations are very important in childhood

The gift of sight is so precious. Thus, making sure your child has an eye examination at regular intervals is vital to help preserve this gift.

Problems with seeing may affect your child’s self-confidence and prevent him from participating fully in sports and games. Uncorrected poor vision will almost inevitably cause your child to have problems with learning. It has been estimated that 80% of all learning activities involve vision. It is extremely important to identify and correct any problems with sight as early as possible.

The most common sight problems that affect children are short-sight (myopia), squint (strabismus), and lazy eye (amblyopia). Blurred vision, caused by refractive error, and long-sight also affect a significant percentage of school-age children.

It is not always easy to identify a child with vision problems at an early stage. The child will assume that what it sees is normal. Sometimes the problem only becomes evident when problems with schoolwork arise and are traced back to the fact that the child is unable to see properly what is written on the blackboard.

In Wales, for example, it has been estimated that as many as 10% of children are affected by poor vision. Another study in a London borough found 12% of children had impaired vision and 43% had never had an eye examination.

Early treatment is vital

Warning signs of eye disorders in children

If your child frequently rubs his eyes, sits very near to the television or computer screen or often complains of headache, this may be a sign of eyesight problems.

A child with vision problems may try to avoid activities that require attention to detail, so for example may refuse to use puzzle books or colouring books.

Other warning signs are clumsiness and difficulties with activities that require coordination between the eyes, hands and body, for example catching a ball, riding a bicycle.

Problems with concentration, behavioural problems and poor performance at school should also be taken as warnings of potential sight defects. Some children originally diagnosed with ADHD are subsequently found to have vision problems, which are responsible for their lack of attention, becoming distracted and hyperactivity.

Some conditions, amblyopia, for example, do not give rise to such alerts. Regular eye examination is the only guarantee that eye problems will be identified and corrected at an early stage.

Eye care tips from an expert

If your child's eyesight needs correction

In the past, children who had to wear glasses were often made to feel inferior by their peers. They would be thought of as geeky or nerdy and taunted by names such as “four-eyes”.

Today, children who need vision correction have many role models, who have made it “cool” to wear glasses. A survey by the UK College of Optometrists found that 86% of teenagers said they admired Johnny Depp in his spectacles. Among the under-10s, 85% thought that glasses were “cool” because Harry Potter wears them. Elton John, Bill Gates and Doctor Who are among others cited by children as positive role models for spectacle wearers.

If your child needs glasses, give him the opportunity, as far as possible, to select frames that he likes.

Children can also be fitted with contact lenses. Your child must be capable of inserting and removing the lenses himself and must understand how to look after the lenses properly.

Natural vision correction

Natural vision correction uses a combination of eye exercises, relaxation techniques and nutritional supplements in order to correct vision. Most optometrists and ophthalmologists are sceptical about the benefits and point out that practitioners of natural vision correction techniques tend not to have professional qualifications in ophthalmology or optometrics. The techniques in themselves are not harmful. If you wish to explore the potential benefits of natural vision correction for your child, do make sure that he also remains under the supervision of an eye professional, continues to wear his glasses or contact lenses and has a regular eye examination.

Wearing specs is cool

Johnny Depp is one of a number of role models who have helped children to think wearing glasses is cool.
Johnny Depp is one of a number of role models who have helped children to think wearing glasses is cool. | Source

Prevention of vision problems and eye diseases

There are a number of ways in which you can help to ensure your child enjoys the best possible eye health, now and in years to come.  

Don't forget the shades

Wearing sunglasses is very important in protecting eye health
Wearing sunglasses is very important in protecting eye health | Source

Unbreakable, flexible and polarized kids sunglasses

RIVBOS RBK006 Rubber Flexible Kids Polarized Sunglasses Age 3-10 (Pink)
RIVBOS RBK006 Rubber Flexible Kids Polarized Sunglasses Age 3-10 (Pink)

These sunglasses have rubber frames, which make them flexible and comfortable to wear as well as virtually unbreakable. The polycarbonate lenses are resistant to impact and scratching and meet the specifications of the American Optometric Association. They come in four color choices (I like the pink and turquoise best!).

 

 Exposure to light

A certain amount of exposure to natural light is beneficial. Australian researchers found that children who play outside for longer periods have better eyesight than children who stay indoors most of the time. Being outside in natural light for 2-3 hours each day halves the risk of children becoming short sighted. This is thought to be due to the protective effect of chemicals released within the eye in response to bright light.

On the other hand, excessive exposure of the eyes to sunlight can promote the development of age-related macular degeneration and cataract. Over-exposure of eyes to sunlight in childhood can therefore set in motion processes that will result in vision problems in later years.

A UK survey found that 76% of parents did not ensure that their child wore sunglasses with UV protection, despite being meticulous about using sun cream on their child. Of those who did address the matter, only 25% bought a reputable brand of sunglasses, with most of the remainder putting price above quality.

Another study found that very young children who slept with a night light were more likely to become short-sighted. Short sight is caused by excessive growth of the eyeball. This growth is most rapid before the age of two years. Exposure to light during the night is thought to stimulate this growth even further.

Eat your greens (and your reds, oranges, yellows, purples...)!

Eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables helps keep eyes healthy
Eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables helps keep eyes healthy | Source

A healthy diet

Diabetes and high cholesterol levels are risk factors associated with the development of cataract. Bringing up your child to enjoy a healthy diet and to avoid overeating will help to prevent them developing these conditions in later life. A diet rich in fruit and vegetables will also supply anti-oxidants such as vitamins C and E and beta-carotene. These are thought to reduce the risk of cataracts developing.

Good control of blood sugar levels if your child is already diabetic will reduce the risk of vision impairment and even blindness caused by diabetic retinopathy.

Reading and computer use

There is no hard evidence that reading small print or using a computer for long periods causes permanent damage to the eyes. However, the strain placed on the eyes by these activities can make them red and sore, and can cause temporary blurred vision, headache and fatigue. If your child has impaired vision, these effects may be more pronounced.

Make sure that work and reading areas are well lit and that computer screens are not too bright. A desk lamp with a daylight bulb can be helpful. Encourage your child to take frequent breaks from books and the computer. If possible, try to incorporate some time outdoors during these breaks.

Act now to prevent later problems

Eyes are precious and irreplaceable. Regular eye examination, a healthy lifestyle and a few simple precautions will ensure the best possible vision for your child and the increased quality of life this entails.

Comments

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    • WriteAngled profile imageAUTHOR

      WriteAngled 

      5 years ago from Abertawe, Cymru

      Hope everything proves to be OK with your daughter. At the very least, if she is diagnosed with diabetes, the problem will have been identified at an early stage before any real damage has occurred.

    • Bedbugabscond profile image

      Melody Trent 

      5 years ago from United States

      I took my daughter to the eye doctor last week. He pointed out that extreme nearsightedness can be a sign of juvenile diabetes. We are going to have her checked, just in case.

    • profile image

      greengirlgret 

      7 years ago

      Excellent article! My husband and I both have eye problems, so we started getting routine eye exams for our son when he was young. Thankfully, we've actually caught a treatable eye condition and were actually able to reverse it! Had we not caught it when he was young, he may not be able to see today! Definitely get your children's eyes checked. Just because they don't complain of poor eyesight doesn't mean there isn't anything wrong.

    • profile image

      shellyl88 

      8 years ago

      Regular eye exams are very important in a child's eye health. I found a great doctor in Austin that my kids love at Tech Ridge Vision - http://www.techridgevision.com - I'd encourage you to check him out if you're in the Austin area.

    • WriteAngled profile imageAUTHOR

      WriteAngled 

      8 years ago from Abertawe, Cymru

      Thanks, Lizzy. Outdoors is great if you can do it. I live in Wales; taking a break outside would mean I get very wet most of the time :)

    • profile image

      Lizzy  

      8 years ago

      One tip for anyone using computers in regards to eye health - it is very important to make sure you take eye rest by looking away from the monitor every 15 minutes or so, preferably outdoors if possible. It helps your eyes re-adjust.

    • WriteAngled profile imageAUTHOR

      WriteAngled 

      8 years ago from Abertawe, Cymru

      Thanks, LizzyBoo. Most techy/geeky and/or mathematical topics would defeat me :))

      Thank you, BB. You are far more talented than me! I played violin from age 11 to 17. I then took it up again at age 44, but have lost most of what I ever learned. I keep meaning to get a few lessons when time permits, but it never does!

    • BEAUTYBABE profile image

      BEAUTYBABE 

      8 years ago from QUEENSLAND AUSTRALIA.

      Hi WA, welcome to hubpages and nice to meet you. I played the violin from the age of 5 years and went on to study at the conservatorium here in Australia. I loved singing also so I studied singing after turning 17. I can still play but I don't play any more. I think this hub was great because it is so informative. Our children are very precious to us, and their health is our No. 1 priority. Their eyesight in particular should be looked after when they are young as they only have one pair of eyes and they have to see them through to the older years. Merry Christmas.

      I wish you luck on Hubpages and would like to be a follower of yours BB

    • LizzyBoo profile image

      LizzyBoo 

      8 years ago from Czech Republic

      WriteAngled -WOOOW. Addore you, I would not be able to make such excellent hub as you just did. I see you can writte about anything. Well done!!!

    • WriteAngled profile imageAUTHOR

      WriteAngled 

      9 years ago from Abertawe, Cymru

      Thank you, cashmere. Hope your little one is better now.

    • cashmere profile image

      cashmere 

      9 years ago from India

      Great Hub. Welcome to the hubmob

    • WriteAngled profile imageAUTHOR

      WriteAngled 

      9 years ago from Abertawe, Cymru

      Thank you very much, Cagsil. My work interferes with hubbing, so my output is a bit slow.

    • Cagsil profile image

      Cagsil 

      9 years ago from USA or America

      I found your Hub to be very well written, as usual and extremely informative. I'm an avid follower of your work, please continue. You have a lot to offer others. Thank you so much. :)

    • WriteAngled profile imageAUTHOR

      WriteAngled 

      9 years ago from Abertawe, Cymru

      Thank you very much, Princessa. I look forward to contributing to more HubMobs.

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      9 years ago from France

      Welcome to the HubMob! great content here.

    • WriteAngled profile imageAUTHOR

      WriteAngled 

      9 years ago from Abertawe, Cymru

      Thank you so much, Barbara. To get such a comment from a healthcare professional means a lot.

    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 

      9 years ago from Tucson, Az

      WRong? Goodness WriteAngled this is excellent!!! YOu ROck!! :) Love to you!!

    • WriteAngled profile imageAUTHOR

      WriteAngled 

      9 years ago from Abertawe, Cymru

      Thank you very much for your kind comment :)

    • janiek13 profile image

      Mary Krenz 

      9 years ago from Florida's Space Coast

      Excellent hub! very informative and easy to read. Welcome!

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