Your child's eyes

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Protecting your child’s eyes is a way of ensuring a good start in life and a healthy future. The sooner problems are picked up and treated, the more likely it is that no lasting damage is done to the eye.

During childhood, there are a few common eye problems such as conjunctivitis, blocked tear duct, and vision problems (as a result of peering at the television or computer) which can be treated and remedied.

As every parent knows, children are also accident-prone and more likely to get into situations where toxic fluids, chemicals or foreign objects get in their eyes. Any accident involving the eye is an emergency and the quicker you get professional help the better for the health of the eye.

Very young children

If you notice anything that makes you concerned about your baby’s sight or if you have a family history of vision impairment, you should consult your doctor immediately: early detection means the best chance for good vision. As children get older, take them to a doctor or optometrist as soon as possible if they:

  • squint or frown, rub their eyes or close one eye when looking at an object.
  • sit very close to the television or computer screen or hold books and puzzles at close range.
  • always tilt or turn their head to one side.
  • are not doing as well as they should at school, are disruptive in class or won’t participate in games that need distance vision.
  • You should also talk to your doctor if your child’s eyes don’t look the same.

Older children

Many vision problems can be treated and vision loss can be prevented, but hereditary conditions usually get worse as your child gets older. Blindness (or vision impairment) is far more common in older people, but it does affect all ages, and about one in 2500 young Australian children are vision impaired – born with total vision loss or a degree of vision impairment.

Many conditions cause vision impairment for children, including genetic diseases, cataracts, tumours, infections in the mother during pregnancy (such as rubella, toxoplasmosis), childhood infections (such as trachoma, glaucoma, meningitis), and damage to the eye or the area of the brain that deals with visual images from birth complications.

If your child is vision impaired, there are many supports and services available to teach the skills needed to become as independent and safe as possible, and lead as normal a life as other children.

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