80% of what we perceive from our surroundings comes from our sense of sight. With proper preventative care, parents can help their children preserve their sight for years to come, and experience the world around them to the fullest!
Common Eye Problems
Some of the more common eye problems that present in children include:
Also known as ‘lazy eye’, this is a vision disorder that can be caused by poor alignment of the eyes. Over time the brain fails to process inputs from the affected eye, favouring the other. If left untreated images from the affected eye will be blocked out permanently. Regular eye checks can catch amblyopia at an early stage.
More commonly referred to as ‘pink eye’, conjunctivitis is a highly contagious (although rarely serious) inflammation of the thin clear tissue that lies over the white part of the eye. This inflammation causes a redness, or ‘pinkness’ of the white of the eye and is usually accompanied by a thick, yellow discharge, indicating an infection. Visit your GP if you suspect your child has pink eye.
Styes occur when an oil gland on the edge of the eyelid becomes blocked. While generally treatable with over-the-counter methods, styes can become very painful and swollen. Call your GP if your child’s stye is not responding to treatment.
4) Blocked Tear Duct:
Most common in children under the age of one, a blocked tear duct occurs when the membrane inside the lower end of the duct is slow to open. Usually, a blocked tear duct will eventually correct itself, however your child’s doctor will be able to suggest treatment in the meantime, including gently massaging the inner corner of the eye.
Four Tips for Eye Health
Here are some proactive ways parents can help maintain their child’s eye health:
1) Regular Eye Examinations:
Think of eye examinations as ‘preventative maintenance’ and the first line of defence for good eye health. Your child will have an eye exam as part of their paediatric check at birth, six weeks old, three years old, six years old, and then every two years after that. Their eye health and development will be tested each time and their doctor will be able to flag any potential issues.
2) Balanced Diet:
A healthy diet lays the foundation for good eye health. Zinc, lutein, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A, C and E can help prevent infections, reduce any future risk of eye diseases, and even fight night blindness. Include lots of fruits, leafy greens, and good fats in your child’s diet.
3) Protect Eyes from the Sun:
This is particularly important in Cayman’s sunny climate! Excessive UV exposure has been linked to cataracts, retinal damage and even eye cancer. Children are more at risk of vision damage as their eyes are still developing. Always ensure that your child is wearing sunglasses that block 99%-100% of UV light to ensure maximum protection.
4) Limit Screen Time:
As children spend increasing amounts of time online, protecting young eyes from overexertion has never been more important. Implement the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes children should look away from the screen at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds – this will help with eyestrain.
Watch for Warning Signs
Keep an eye out for the following symptoms, which could suggest your child is struggling with a vision problem. As always, if you suspect there is an issue, speak to your child’s GP.
- Rubbing their eyes frequently
- Squinting when reading or focusing on something
- Light sensitivity
- Poor hand-eye coordination
- Excessive tiredness
For a list of eye specialists in Cayman, see the list below.
Family History: As with any physical trait, eye health (and eye weaknesses!) can be passed down from parents to children. If you and your partner are nearsighted, farsighted or have an astigmatism, there’s a chance your child will present with the same eye issues too. Speak to your GP about any specific concerns you have about your family history with eye health.