World Sight Day and Eye Care Awareness Month are two important annual initiatives that focus on raising awareness about vision impairment and the risks of poor eye health.
Andre Horn, senior optometrist and managing director of Mellins i-Style, has the following tips and information to encourage and support healthy vision.
Important information about vision problems in children
As much as children need to learn to walk and talk, they also need to develop their visual acuity before they can make sense of their surroundings. Approximately 19 million children worldwide have vision problems, of which almost 12 million could have had their eye conditions corrected if they had regular eye examinations, according to a 2014 study by the World Health Organisation.
“By the time a parent usually notices that their child has a visual problem, the child’s visual acuity has reduced by more than 60%”, say Andre. “The earlier an eye condition is detected by an optometrist, the sooner it can be treated.”
Seven important signs your child under three needs an eye examination:
- Regularly holding his head at an angle
- Avoidance of light or failure to respond to light
- Obsessive rubbing of his eyes with his fingers and grimacing
- Turning of the eyes without focusing on anything
- Grasping for objects and missing them
- Strabismus, commonly known as “cross-eyes”, is when the eyes are turned or when the eyes have different prescriptions. A “lazy eye” can develop from this if your child favours the eye that provides clear images and neglects the other, meaning the neglected eye fails to develop its vision acuity.
6 serious childhood eye conditions to watch out for
The following conditions are only a few of the eye problems in children that may require treatment. It is therefore always a good idea to consult your optometrist if you notice any eye problems in your child.
When your child’s eyes are crossed, it is important that the optometrist examines the problem and the eyes’ ability to function together.
Usually a result of strabismus, amblyopia occurs when the eyes are turned or when the eyes have different prescriptions. The brain “shuts off” the image from the turned or blurry eye. Take your child to an optometrist who will prescribe the correct treatment.
Your child easily recognises far-away objects, but finds it challenging to focus on things up close, and therefore may experience headaches, red eyes, inability to concentrate and restlessness. He may tire easily when reading or writing. The condition can, however, improve as he gets older.
Due to the changed shape of the eye, your child is unable to focus on distant objects. Near-sighted children are more engaged with things up close and often squint or blink as they try to focus on objects in the distance.
This is the irregular curvature of the cornea (the outside, dome-shaped surface of the eye). Depending on the severity of the irregularity, objects may appear blurred, distorted and slanted.
Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the white outer surface of the eye and inner lining of the eyelids. Usually caused by a bacterial and contagious infection or an allergic reaction, the eye appears red or pink. Eyes are itchy and irritated and discharge appears in both eyes.
For more eye care tips and advice visit www.mellins.co.za.
Spectacles can mean the difference between success and failure for an underprivileged learner
As we observe World Sight Day on 12 October, the Adopt-a-School Foundation (AAS) encourages partners in the private sector, civil society, and government to support its efforts to address the issue of impaired vision that affects millions of underprivileged learners in South Africa.
“Most children in our adopted schools have never had their eyes tested,” explains Banyana Mohajane, Head of Skills and Social Development at AAS. “Through the introduction of mobile eyesight testing clinics, we have found that up to 15% of these learners have vision problems, which could lead to poor academic performance,” she continues.
“Over the last six years we have partnered with optometrists to conduct nearly 60 000 eyesight tests. We have donated 2 697 pairs of spectacles to learners in need and have referred the more serious cases to specialists and the Department of Health,” continues Mohajane. “Together with our partners, we hope to test the eyesight of many more school children across South Africa.”