Your child’s eye health is important even starting from birth. Vision plays a critical role in your child’s development as many vision problems can affect their physical, cognitive and social progress.
Early detection of vision problems and management is crucial in ensuring your child reaches their potential by developing the vision needed for them to learn.
In order to find out more about what we have to do, when and why, what symptoms should we look for, we shadowed Dr. Darakhshanda Khurram, MBBS, FRCS (Glasgow), ICO, MCPS, Consultant Paediatric Ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai, a branch of Moorfields London.
According to Dr. Khurram:
Your child’s first eye evaluation should be at the birth and is called the ‘red reflex test’. This is carried out by your post-natal health professional (doctors/nurse/midwife) before your baby is discharged from the hospital. This test looks for congenital issues with the structure of the eye; the specialist is looking for a clear view of the back of the eye. Primarily we are looking for congenital cataracts, very high refractive errors or retinal lesions.
Ideally, your baby should have an eye examination at the age of six months to assess if their eyes are focusing and following adequately, to rule out any squints/misalignment of the eyes or any eye disease. If there is a family history of high glasses prescriptions, squints, lazy eyes or congenital eye disease you should have your child monitored annually from very early childhood.
Possibly the most important time for your child to have a comprehensive vision screening, regardless of any family history, is between 3 and 4 years of age. This is old enough to achieve good subjective responses from your child; at this age, most children can accurately name pictures. It is also young enough that if any visual issues are found they can be treated within the sensitive period of your child’s visual development. Visual issues that are not picked up until later in childhood or into adulthood can have a lifelong impact on a person’s vision and have consequences such as the limitation of some career paths or restrictions in driving.
The pre-school checks carried out at the hospital are enjoyable for children, our highly specialist team of orthoptists are dedicated to making your child feel relaxed and happy during the initial assessment. Our Orthoptists are experienced in dealing with children of all ages and educational levels, they have different tests to match to your child’s level of cooperation and age.
Some eye conditions do not present with any signs or symptoms, besides, children may not appreciate they have a vision problem. It is therefore very important to have their eyes examined regularly. Most vision issues can be treated easily with a child obtaining optimal vision if the problem is detected early on.
These tests are advised before they start schooling as most school activities are vision-based. Uncorrected vision problems can lead to reduced class participation and can negatively affect your child’s educational performance.
Your child’s eye health
Signs of vision problems in a baby could include:
- poor focusing
- poor visual tracking
- constant eye rubbing
- light sensitivity
- misaligned eyes
- persistently red eyes
- watery eyes
- white pupillary reflex
Other signs to look out for in older children:
- squeezing eyes
- difficulty reading/slow reading
- misaligned eyes (this could be constant or intermittently seen)
- short attention span
- behavioral issues
- holding books/ipads close to their face
- sitting close to the TV
- unable to see objects in distance or whiteboard in school
Regular eye examinations are so important in making sure your child is well equipped to learn successfully.
Article courtesy to Dr. Darakhshanda Khurram, MBBS, FRCS (Glasgow), ICO, MCPS, Consultant Paediatric Ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai, a branch of Moorfields London.