Doctors have advised parents to bring their children for an eye checkup as soon as he is six months old and to have an annual eye exam after that. “The child will not complain if there is a problem, so he must be checked regularly,” pediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Patricia Santiago, who holds a clinic at St. Luke’s Medical Center, told Smart Parenting.
Prolonged gadget use may not cause permanent damage, but there are eye conditions that foretell a serious problem. Symptoms such as light sensitivity and a whitish color behind the pupils should not be ignored. Here are the common vision and eye problems in children to watch out for:
1. Lazy eye It's also called amblyopia, and it's a condition where one eye is weaker and does not see clearly. Symptoms include an eye that wanders on its own and eyes that appear not to work together. When left untreated, amblyopia leads to irreversible vision loss. “The weaker eye tends to shut down and no matter what amount of grade you put, it will be blurred permanently,” explained pediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Patricia Villa, who holds clinic at The Medical City, to Smart Parenting.
The eye condition needs to be treated as early as possible and ideally before the child is 8 years old, according to KidsHealth. Treatment includes wearing eyeglasses and eye patches. “You patch the stronger eye so that brain will not forget the poorer eye. You can start patching as early as six months,” said Dr. Santiago.
2. Misalignment Misalignment, or strabismus, is when the eyes turn in different directions. The eyes may cross or move in opposite ways. In Filipino, the condition is termed as “duling.” It's common in children since their eyes are still developing.
“Children younger than six months of age may have a common form of strabismus that comes and goes,” according to Stanford Children's Health. “Strabismus as a result of poor muscle strength in the eye is less common.” Treatment includes patching the stronger eye or with eyeglasses, exercise, and surgery.
3. Refractive errors: near-sightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism Refractive errors occur when there is trouble producing a clear image because of how the light enters and works inside the eye. Nearsightedness is when things up close are clear and become more blurry at a distance. Farsightedness is the opposite with things at a distance being clear and nearer objects being blurry. With astigmatism, the images your child sees are sometimes tilted, blurry, or shadowy.
Out of the three refractive errors, nearsightedness is the most common in children and is detected at around age 9 or 10, said Stanford Children’s Health. Signs your child may have this condition include squinting, eye rubbing, and difficulty reading.
4. Retinoblastoma Retinoblastoma is one of the most common childhood cancers in the Philippines along with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and brain tumors, according to Dr. Jochrys Estanislao, a pediatric hematologist and pediatric oncologist who holds clinic at ManilaMed. Children age 5 and below are most commonly affected, and it can be inherited.
“If you have it in your family, there's a chance that it will pass down to the kids but it can also occur spontaneously in children with no history of retinoblastoma,” Dr. Estanislao told Smart Parenting. “Those with retinoblastoma may have a whitish color behind their pupils.” Other signs include redness, swelling and misalignment of the eyes.
5. Pediatric cataracts Cataracts can come from aging, but it also occurs in infants and children though it is uncommon. They may be present at birth (congenital) or or come later in life.
With a cataract, the lens of the eye that should normally be transparent is clouded, affecting the vision. For most cases, surgery is needed to remove the opaque, white area that's preventing light from passing through the lens of the eye. “Because children's eyes are still developing until they're 8 or 10 years old, untreated cataracts can have serious long-term effects on their vision. But early detection and prompt treatment can prevent permanent vision loss,” according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
6. Childhood glaucoma Though rare, glaucoma is a serious condition as it can lead to blindness. It can be present at birth, called congenital glaucoma, and is seen in 1 in 10,000 newborns, according to the Philippine Glaucoma Society. It's also sometimes seen in older children and is called juvenile glaucoma.
Glaucoma is when pressure builds in the eye due to fluids not being able to drain properly. This pressure strains the optic nerve, which eventually causes damage and, later on, permanent blindness. Early detection and treatment, which is typically surgery, is crucial. Lifelong follow-up will come afterward as the high pressure may return. Symptoms of glaucoma include blurred vision, light sensitivity, tearing, and eyelid spasm.
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