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No Kidding About Eye Care

Says eye specialist Dr. Ratan Bajaj in an informative chat with Samsaam M. Ansari.

Every part of the human body is of utmost importance and should be treated as such. Losing a limb can be devastating but life can still go on. But can you imagine life without vision? Utmost care should be taken of the eyes specially those of children as they are prone to more careless accidents that can result in serious impairment to the eyesight.

Eye care amongst children begins very early in life, in fact from the time of the pregnancy itself. If the mother contracts viral infections like rubella in the second trimester the child may be born with cataract and if she contracts toxoplasmosis in the third trimester, the child carries the danger of being born blind at birth.

The child may be born with metabolic disorders like diabetes, galactosemia and Wilson's disease and have eye complications that effect vision. The metabolic disorders in the mother and ingestion of certain drugs like corticosteroids can produce eye diseases in the newborn and hence should be avoided.

A child's eyes are very sensitive
Children are more prone to eye injuries than adults in general. Eye injuries in children can be caused by sharp toys, pencils, etc. If immediate and timely medical attention is not provided, a child might loose his/her vision. Generally, the most sensitive age for these injuries is 2-4 years but the danger exists among school going children too.

In fact, the blunt trauma caused by injury from a tennis or cricket ball is more common in the later age group and needs urgent urgent medical attention by an opthalmologist. Besides these injuries one should also remember the Battered Child Syndrome that includes a non-accidental trauma as well as other problems resulting from lack of care by the parents.

Too much harsh light is detrimental to a child's vision
Light is an important factor for a good vision. It plays a vital role in the photochemical reaction at a biochemical level in the retina. The quality of vision suffers in subdued light and children who persistently read and work in insufficient light suffer from eyestrain, headache and end up with deteriorating eyesight. Thus, it is important even for infants to spend sufficient time under the bright room lights of nursery.

It is advisable to protect them from lights periodically to permit visual cells renewal in their eyes. The injuries caused by ultraviolet radiation may have accumulative effect on a child's eyes and is more common in extreme sunlight especially at the beaches. Looking at a solar eclipse with the naked eye could lead visual damage caused by infrared rays focused on the retina.

Children must maintain a safe distance from computers and TV screens
There is increasing evidence from studies conducted that excessive indulgence in computer or video games by children is not only responsible for "Computer Eye Syndrome" causing frequent eye strain, headaches and increase in power of the spectacles but also for serious health illness in later years of one's life.

Children should be protected from the emission of ultraviolet and other harmful rays from computers and television sets. The children should not be allowed to sit glued to the computer or TV screens. Parents should ensure that a safe distance (of approximately 3 meters for TV and 60-80 cms for computer) should always be maintained and also monitor the period of time the child spends before a TV or computer depending on the age of the child. Although there are no conclusive studies that watching excessive TV causes increase in visual defect in eyes but there is ample evidence in daily practice that it does happen in growing children.

Excess of carrot juice is bad
Diet plays a very important role in maintaining healthy eyes. One should not only look for deficiency of certain vitamins because of food Faddism but should also look for food excess like obesity and other food related disorders in children.

Vitamin A (Retinol) is vital to maintain good vision since it is an essential element for visual excitation in visual cells (Rods) and its deficiency may cause night blindness or impaired dark adaptation. It can be corrected by 150 mg of Vitamin A or 300mg of beta-carotene daily or alternatively by providing 30,000 units of vitamin daily for a week. Many parents are over-enthusiastic in correcting their children's eyes by giving plenty of carrot juice daily presuming that the vision will improve and that the child may not need glasses in later life. By doing so they are causing more harm since excess of vitamin A gets deposited in the liver and spleen causing health problem in kids. As a matter of fact one should go for a balanced diet containing green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, pulses, egg, fish and milk in routine and carrot juice is advised not more than thrice a week.

Regular eye-check-ups a must
Prevention is better then cure. Eye check-ups before the age of three is advisable as eye defects such as squint (deviation of eyes) eyes maybe corrected if detected at this age. If an eye is detected defective after the age of 9 years then it cannot be corrected under any circumstances. 90 percent of the child's vision is developed by the age of 2 1/2 years and by 3 years most of the vision is developed. It is desirable to measure vision of children before the age of 5 years to identify the presence of severe refractive errors.

If a child's vision is found defective, a right pair of spectacles would be recommended and should be followed up with routine examination every six months to one year and glasses be changed accordingly till the age of 22 years because the eyes do not grow after this age and the power of glasses do not change usually. The alternative to glasses during the developing age of child is contact lenses, which if used wisely during the age of 12-16 years can help control the refractive power of the eyes to a great extent.

Eye-care tips for parents

  • Have your child's eyes examined between the age of three to five
  • Ensure the child is not exposed to dim or excessive light.
  • Limit your child's computer and TV watching.
  • Have the child's eyesight checked regularly at every six months to a year.
  • Do not believe in short cuts; always get your child's eyes checked by an Eye Specialist if your child is below 12 years of age.
  • Avoid frequent visits to beaches and viewing eclipses without proper eye protection.
  • Healthy eyes do not require annual examination.
  • If there is persistent watering or frequent blinking in your child's eyes, consult an Eye specialist.
  • If your child rubs his/her eyes while watching TV, the child may need glasses.
  • If your child does not copy correctly from the black board, consult an Eye Specialist, as he may need glasses.
  • If the child's performance is consistently poor in the class, consult your eye professional as he may have learning disabilities or defective eye power.
  • The eyes clean themselves. Healthy eyes do not require eye drops.
  • If chemicals get into the eye it must be washed with water immediately.
  • In case of even trivial eye injury it must be examined by the eye professional immediately.

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