If you feel that your child is having difficulty seeing or looking at objects, he may possibly have an eye problem. Here are six eye diseases to watch out for, along with their symptoms and treatments.
Does your child usually squint or tilt his head when looking at objects? Does he seem to have difficulty reading, whether nearby objects or those from a distance? Is there a white spot in his eye? Does he frequently have watery and red eyes? If you answered yes to any of these questions, your child may have an eye problem that warrants medical attention.
Eye diseases can present at birth or develop during childhood. Since kids cannot always verbalize their discomfort, parents must take initiative to look for the signs or symptoms that may indicate a problem. If you think your child may have an eye condition, discuss your concerns with a pediatric ophthalmologist or your pediatrician right away.
Here are some of the most common eye problems that parents must watch out for.
1. Congenital Cataracts Cataracts occur when our natural eye lenses turn cloudy and hard. Most of us will, at some point, develop a cataract since this is a natural part of aging. However some children have cataracts at birth or develop them in childhood, which is not normal. This is referred to as congenital cataract, and visual impairment or a cloudy appearance are its most frequent signs. If the vision is significantly impaired, an eye surgeon - preferably a pediatric ophthalmologist - may suggest immediate surgery. Congenital cataracts may occur in one eye or both eyes.
2. Strabismus This is the medical term for “crossed” or “turned” eyes. In some children it is accompanied by an abnormal head turn or tilt. Strabismus most often occurs when the eye muscles don’t work together, causing the misalignment. Medical attention at an early age is important. Treatment options include eye patching, eyeglasses or surgery to strengthen or weaken a specific eye muscle.
3. Refractive errors The most common refractive errors include myopia or nearsightedness and hyperopia or farsightedness. Children with refractive errors usually complain of difficulty seeing clearly from a distance or nearby. Normally, the light rays should be focused in the center of the retina. In myopia, the light rays are focused in front of the retina, whereas they are behind the retina in hyperopia. Eye specialists recommend eyeglasses or contact lenses when needed.
4. Amblyopia This is a condition wherein both eyes appear normal but in reality, one suffers from poor vision due to insufficient use in early childhood. Amblyopia usually arises from misaligned eyes (strabismus) or uncorrected errors of refraction. It is often referred to as ‘lazy eye’, because there is heavy preference for one eye, making the other eye lazier or weaker. Early treatment includes patching and use of eyeglasses. Visit your pediatric ophthalmologist if amblyopia is suspected.
5. Conjunctivitis Frequently referred to as “sore eyes” or “pink eyes”, conjunctivitis may be accompanied by an eye discharge, foreign body sensation and tearing. Most pink eyes are viral, bacterial or allergic in origin. Bacterial and viral conjunctivitis can be contagious especially in the early phase of infection. Eyedrop medications may be needed in some cases, but conjunctivitis generally resolves in about a week. Allergic conjunctivitis is common in children with asthma or allergies and can cause both eyes to be swollen, red and itchy, thus antihistamines may be needed.
6. Foreign body Foreign objects in the eye such as dust particles or a speck of sand can cause discomfort, thus the reflex of frequent blinking and tearing. Immediately rinse off the foreign particle, and have a medical personnel or an ophthalmologist provide the necessary thorough eye examination after. Healthy eyes are critical in a child’s development, and early consultation for such problems increases the chance of successful treatment. Be sure to make eye check-ups a part of your child's routine medical care.