Health experts insist that a practice of routine eye check-ups, starting from infancy to adulthood and vigilant parenting can go a long way in the detection and prevention of common childhood eye problems, thereby ensuring a healthy vision. This is because the paediatric examination has always been a herculean task even for paediatricians hence, they need informed and vigilant parents to bridge this gap and recommend that parents can help the doctor in early identification of the problem with time management as a large number of eye disorders can be picked up by parents at home by using simple techniques and basic observation.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Amrita Aneja, Ophthalmologist at Gurugram’s Park Hospital, shared, “Babies older than 3 months should be able to follow light or toy with their eyes when it moves in their line of sight. Its absence needs an urgent ophthalmologist opinion. Excessive watering of eyes is again very common in children due to congenital nasolacrimal duct obstruction. If treated in time, it can be managed by simple measures. Abnormal light reflex can also be picked up by parents, especially in photographs. If the red reflex is dull or white in either eye repeatedly then see your doctor. It can be done by a simple torch or by observing light reflex in photos.”
She added, “Squint or misaligned eyes are usually first picked up by parents. If a child > 6 months shows an inward or outward deviation of the eye, see an eye specialist. Older or school going children have to be regularly screened for refractive errors. Parents need to be vigilant for early signs like squinting eyes while reading or moving closer to the television. Children need to be taken for a routine eye examination every 1to 2 years. Lazy eye or amblyopia is also common in children due to unequal refractive errors. Therefore self-checks can be done by closing one eye at a time. Allergy is again common during growth years and can manifest as red itchy eyes.”
Asserting that children usually do not say that they have any problems related to their eyes, Dr Priyanka Singh (MBBS, MS, DNB, FAICO), Consultant and Eye Surgeon at New Delhi’s Neytra Eye Centre, said that careful assessment is required by family and teacher to see the warning signs. She said, “From birth to 4 months, the vision in infants is developing, so misalignment or squinting of eyes is normal, which gradually disappears. Any squinting beyond the age of 4 months is a warning sign and eye examination is required.” She listed some symptoms of eye problems to look for in babies, toddlers and school-going children:
Signs of vision problem in babies to look for –
1. Squinting of eyes beyond 4 months
2. If eyes do not move in all directions
3. The baby rubs or presses eyes to much
4. Any slowing of developmental milestones
5. The baby does not open eyes in normal lights
6. The size of the eyeball or the level of eyelids are different or mispositioned.
7. The baby has white or grey colour pupil
8. The baby is unable to grasp or follow any object placed near to him/ her.
9. The baby often bumps to nearby objects, wall while trying to walk.
Signs in toddlers or school-going children –
1. Squinting of eye occasionally or all the time.
2. Frequent rubbing of eyes
3. Slanting of eyes or tilting the head to one side to see better while watching TV or reading
4. Watching TV or reading books from very close
5. Unable to copy text from board in school or lack of focus on school work
6. Redness or pain in eyes
7. Twitching of eyes or frequent blinking of eyes
8. Inability to open eyes in normal sunlight
9. Recurrent eyelid infections
Dr Priyanka Singh advised, “Keeping a watch on these signs and showing them to ophthalmologist can curb the disease or vision problem at an early stage. Still, some diseases like amblyopia or lazy eyes do not have any warning signs. So, yearly eye check-up is necessary to maintain eye health for children as well as adults. If timely screening is not done, then it may lead to amblyopia or strabismus (squint) and permanent vision loss in later life. So, it is important to know the overall eye health of children, warning signs & what you can do to safeguard it.”