Children’s vision

The Lions Club of Grand Cayman is celebrating White Cane Week by keeping Caymanian Compass readers abreast of the latest in eye care information. The following was written by Dr. Campbell.

Eighty per cent of what a child learns before the age of 12 comes through his/her eyes.

Now that’s worthy of contemplation!

We know that one in four school-aged children has an undiagnosed vision problem that interferes with the learning process.

The quality of that learning process influences the individual’s entire life, for one has to learn in order to earn later in life.

It is recommended that all children should experience their first eye exam by the age of three.

We know that many abnormalities can be corrected if uncovered early in life. The chance of functional cure for strabismus and amblyopia is diminished once the eye reaches formative maturity at age six or seven.

That is not to say that the eye does not continue to grow after that stage, in fact the eye continues to change throughout life, but the neurological pattern is set early on. Yearly checkups after age three are recommended to uncover problems that may arise as the eye grows. The importance of uncovering vision abnormalities is taken so seriously in the United States that most States have laws that require all children receive a full eye exam before they enter school

Conditions that require early detection are the following: Myopia or near sightedness, which is a condition of the eye in which images are formed in front of the retina making distance objects appear blurred. This condition can increase until the age of 18 to 22 years.

Huperopia or farsightedness is a refractive error in which the image forms behind the retina. Depending on the degree of error and age the individual can see clearly at both distance and near through a process of accommodation or ‘focusing’, which results in eye strain, making school work difficult. It is known that a high percentage of high school drop out are Hyperopes.

Strabismus or cross eyes is a condition in which the two eyes fail to align simultaneously under normal conditions preventing binocular vision, resulting in double vision. 2 percent of children under the age of three and 3 percent of older people have strabismus.

Amblyopia or lazy eye is reduced vision in an eye that has not received adequate stimulation during early childhood. Amblyopia can be caused by either a misalignment of the eyes (Strabismus) or a difference in image quality between the eyes ( refractive error). One eye gets stronger while the other is suppressed. 2 to 3 percent of people suffer this condition.

Convergence insuficiancy is the condition in which the ability to maintain binocular function while working at a near distance is compromised. All of these conditions need to be addressed as early in life as possible, to facilitate functional corrections.

Besides annual eye exams there are other considerations that need to be addressed to insure the health and well being of eyes.

• Proper nutrition is essential.

• Computer use needs to be limited with ‘time out’ breaks – we know that sustained computer work can result in a pseudo-myopia, eyestrain, and headaches. Glare screens can be a big help in avoiding discomfort.

• Proper refractive correction and lighting in the homework area is essential; this too avoids discomfort.

• Protective eye wear while active in sports. The Vision Council of America says that 90 percent of sports-related eye injuries could have been prevented by wearing protective eyewear. Need we say more?

• Sun protection, not only cuts glare, but ultra violet rays as well. Glare and ultra violet contribute to the formation of cataracts and pterygiums later in life, glare discomfort and headaches. Quality sun wear is highly recommended

Visual impairment is associated with developmental delays and the need for special educational, vocational and social needs. This is just the very reason that the Lions Club of Grand Cayman teams up with all vision care specialists on the Island, to facilitate vision screening in every school each year. Having doctors conduct the screenings affords many abnormalities to be uncovered that would otherwise not be detected until a full exam takes place. There are few if any other children in the world that receives this kind of attention. It is vastly disappointing that a great number of parents and guardians choose to ignore the free advice they receive from the results of these screenings.

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