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The importance of getting your children's eyes tested regularly

Poor vision can lead to academic and social challenges

September marks the start of National Eye Care Awareness Month, and even though eye health is important at any age because eye conditions are often detectable and reversible at a young age, this month we focus on eye care in children.

Uncorrected, vision problems can harm normal childhood development, impact learning and in certain instances even lead to permanent vision loss. Visual functioning has, in fact, been shown to have a considerable impact on academic performance, making early detection and treatment of eye conditions critical.

Vision disorders can result from both genetic and environmental factors, and because certain eye conditions do not display any noticeable signs or symptoms, it is a good idea to undergo vision screening at an early age. This is particularly important if you have a family history of sight problems.

Signs your child may have an eye problem:

Eye appearance

  • Eyes are watery or red
  • Eyelids are red-rimmed, watery or crusted
  • Eyes don't line up properly or look crossed

Child's behaviour

  • Squints or frowns frequently
  • Rubs eyes a lot
  • Closes or covers one eye
  • Complains of frequent headaches
  • Has trouble reading or with close-up work
  • Tilts or thrusts head forward
  • Has difficulty concentrating
  • Sits too close to the television
  • Complains of a headache or feeling nauseous after close-up work

It is however important to remember that your child could have an eye problem even if they do not show any of the typical signs listed.

Common childhood eye conditions

  • Refractive errors are the most common sight problem among children and are caused by the way the eyes bend (refract) light. These refractive errors prevent the eye from focusing light properly, resulting in blurred vision. The most common refractive errors are nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism and can in most instances be rectified with eyeglasses or contact lenses.
  • Lazy eye (amblyopia) is caused by misalignment of the eyes, which in turn results in reduced vision. If detected early on, it is usually treatable, however if only detected later in life it is much more difficult to treat.
  • Double vision is another condition caused by misalignment of the eyes, which results in the person seeing the same object in two different places at the same time. Treatment options usually include surgery or alternatively prism glasses.
  • Paediatric cataracts occur when the normally clear eye lens becomes cloudy which can interfere with light passing to the retina and cause blurred vision.
  • Paediatric glaucoma results from high pressure in the eye, which can cause damage to the optic nerve and in certain instances permanent loss of vision.

Eye screening ensures the very best start to your child's academic and social life

Ultimately children left with undiagnosed vision problems stand the very real chance of facing both academic and social challenges.

Low marks in the formative schooling years may not be seen as any reason to worry, but the challenges for children with low vision will only become greater as learning material becomes more advanced and reliant on previous learning.

Poor academic performance and challenges conducting age appropriate tasks such as colouring-in activities, completing puzzles or even catching a ball, which all require relatively good vision, can negatively impact a child's self-esteem and confidence.

Ensuring your child goes for vision screening early on can therefore prove invaluable when it comes to detecting any treating potential or existing eye problems.


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