Nurture your child's eye health

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Surveys show that myopia afflicts 25% of 7 year olds, 33% of 9 year olds, 50% of 12 year olds and more than 80% of 18 year old males in Singapore. Here are some of the steps a parent must take to deal with the problem.

Nurture your child's sight

Here is how to nurture your child's sight

My neighbour was worried for her seven-year-old son because he got failing grades in school and complained that he couldn’t see what was written on the board. I asked her if she had observed any sign of eye problems and suggested that she take him to his pediatrician. Consequently, the physician referred her to an eye doctor who diagnosed that the boy had myopia and couldn’t see things clearly from a distance.

My neighbour’s son is just one of the many cases of children in Singapore with a vision problem called myopia. In fact, the Singapore National Eye Centre reported that there have been increasing cases of myopia among children for the last 100 years or so.

Surveys show that myopia afflicts 25% of 7 year olds, 33% of 9 year olds, 50% of 12 year olds and more than 80% of 18 year old males in Singapore. Likewise, Readers’ Digest Asia presented that “65 percent of children leaving primary school have myopia.”

Other studies outside of Singapore indicate that one out of four children experience eye and vision problems, amblyopia, strabismus, and binocular problems yet these are left unidentified and untreated even before school age. As a result, the children experience learning difficulties in school. These difficulties include an inability to see the board, difficulty in reading and in interacting with others.

Based on these facts, there is a need for parents to be aware that they should take care of their child’s eyes even at a very young age. Here are some of the steps a parent must take to deal with the problem.

Regular Eye Check-up
Ideally, eye screening should be done right after birth. However if this is not possible, the Singapore National Eye Centre advises parents to take their child to a family doctor or government polyclinic for proper screening as early as six months of age, for the first official eye check-up. A follow-up screening should be done when your child turns three years old and a vision and eye alignment screening should be conducted at five years of age. After that, a regular visit to an eye doctor, at least once every year or once every two years, is recommended to monitor your child’s visual development. Regular vision screening is also important during the puberty stage. Early detection of vision problems will prevent learning disabilities in children.

Important Tips For Daily Care
Regular eye check-ups should also be coupled with daily eye care. As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Here are some of the ways parents can take good care of their child’s eyes on a daily basis:

Limit your child’s exposure time to TV and computers. Being exposed to the television or the computer for a long period of time may strain the eyes. There is reason to believe that there are increasing cases of myopia among children these days because they are more exposed to computers whether in school or at home. So, allow your child to have no more than one to two hours of television or computer exposure everyday. Implement 3 to 5 minute vision breaks after 30 to 40 minutes of reading or computer time. To prevent the eyes from being strained, due to reading or looking at the computer screen, breaks should be taken for the eyes to take a rest.

Let them hold books or reading materials at least 48 centimetres away and have them sit at least 18-28 inches away from a computer monitor. Going beyond the recommended distance may strain the eyes.

Watch out for signs or symptoms
Observe whether your child is experiencing or complaining about any of these symptoms which could indicate eye disorders:
• Cannot see objects at a distance
• Has difficulty reading the board
• Squints eyes when reading
• Holds book or reading material close to the eyes
• Sits too close to the television
• Complains of headaches or pain in the eyes
• Manifests poor eye/ hand coordination
• Rubs eyes consistently or eyes appear inflamed or reddish
• Experiences tearing or redness without any known cause
• Complains of double-vision, blurriness or dizziness
• Manifests certain eye abnormalities
• Moves head or turns at unusual angles to see things
• Experiences cognitive development delays

If you see any of these signs and symptoms, take your child to the family doctor or an optometrist. If he or she detects a problem but is unable to find a solution, you will be referred to an ophthalmologist.

These  recommendations can help any parent who wishes to take good care of their child’s eye health. Luckily, my neighbour’s son was diagnosed and treated early for myopia. He is no longer getting failing grades; instead he has climbed to the top rank of his class. Good thing his mother was able to diagnose his problem in time.