What is vision?
Vision is the general word used to describe the coordination of the eye and brain in ensuring that a person sees clearly. The word ‘vision’ has multiple meanings, yet the most basic description is the need to focus the eyes on an image or object which has been seen and the need to define it. Once it is centered and balanced simultaneously the information is sent to your brain for identification. Subsequently, you are able to verbally declare what has been identified. On the whole, vision is not limited merely to the eyes but is a co-ordination of the body, eyes, and brain.
Various stages of eyesight development in children
No child is born with perfect vision. This is a common belief that has to be delved into more profoundly. As a newborn baby, a child is able to see very large and colorful images but cannot make sense of it. By the age of six (06) months, they gradually develop ‘binocular vision’. Binocular vision is the ability of both eyes to see one full picture at the same time. By this time, babies are able to do random recognitions such as recognizing parents or relatives, reacting to large toys or objects.
However, this cannot be a generalization of all children as there are exceptions due to the uniqueness of each child. As development can vary from child to child, it is important to note that all this does not fit into the same time frame.
Most children are naturally farsighted from a very young age but can see clearly at other distances. It is to be noted, that some children who are born into families where parents or extended relatives are wearing spectacles or have been previously diagnosed with squints are at a higher risk for developing vision problems at an earlier age.
By the age of eight (08), the eye matures and characteristics like focusing, tracking, seeing depth perception and the ability to use both eyes at the same time to focus on an object fully develop. Hence, between the ages of 0-8 years it is considered a critical time period to regularly monitor children for any vision or eye problems as treatment is available with better outcomes for the child over the long term.
Common eye defects among children
Commonly seen eye problems include squints or a turned eye (known as strabismus), swelling of the eyelid, a lazy eye (known as amblyopia) and the need to wear glasses at an early age due to reduced vision in one eye or both eyes.
A squint is known to us by many phrases such as lazy eye, crossed eyes or turned eyes. A squint occurs when the eye-point is in different directions. That is either up, down, in or out. In children, the most common type of squint is the eye turned in. The turned eyes may be noticeable to the parent at all times, or may only be seen at particular times of the day. In babies and children with a turned eye, the vision in the affected eye will not develop normally. Therefore, early treatment is most effective to restore equal vision in both eyes. The treatment offered to children by professionals such as an Orthoptist includes prescribing glasses, suggested patching or exercises and in some cases cosmetic surgery.
Amblyopia or a commonly used phrase, ‘lazy eye’ is when one eye becomes lazy as it is not receiving a clear picture as the other eye. The most common causes of this are a squint, incorrect focusing power, droopy eyelid or a cataract. It is important to treat amblyopia as soon as possible, because if left untreated the eye with reduced vision gets worse and the brain will completely switch off using the bad eye, leaving the child with just one eye that has the ability to have vision. This means that the coordination between the two eyes is also lost, and the child will not be able to see in 3D.
Swelling of the eyelid occurs when there is a blockage in the glands of either the upper or lower eyelid. For children or babies with this condition, there will usually be swelling and redness of the eyelid and at times it could also result in oozing from the affected eye. This can happen in one eye only or can be seen in both eyes at different times. If you notice these signs, then its best to consult an ophthalmologist who will suggest initial treatment such as warm compresses to the eyelid. If this condition worsens over months, the doctor may suggest other forms of treatment.
Incorrect focusing of the eye leads to the child complaining that they cannot see the board in school, or that the letters are too hard to read or make sense of and sometimes they either sit very close to the television or when playing they bring the pictures or toys very close to them. Once these signs are detected, it is necessary to consult an eye doctor, optometrist or an orthoptist to determine the strength of their eyes and rectify any defects through corrective measures if need be.
General eye care tips for parents
- Eat right
Keep your child’s eyes healthy by feeding them a well-balanced diet. Remember to give them lots of veggies in particular leafy greens like spinach and kale.
- Increase outdoor activity- get them moving
Let them be involved in activities which involve them exercising in some form such as bike riding, running, playing in the parks or active involvement of a sport.
- Wear sunglasses when outside
- Talk to your child about school, if their academic results are affected maybe it is because they cannot see the board clearly.
- Give the eyes a break!
- Don’t let your child spend time using screens such as the mobile phone, ipads’, laptops or TV. Using these devices may unnecessarily cause a strain to the eyes and may even cause a headache in the child.
(Dip. in Optometry, VCA)