Sight is essential for early development as almost ¾ of a child’s early learning comes through vision. In about 80% of cases blindness is preventable if treatment is received as soon as possible. In children this is usually before the age of six, when the brain and the eye are still developing.
Unfortunately many children’s eye problems are only picked up once they start school and in some cases this may be too late. ORBIS has compiled this checklist so that parents and caregivers of young children can detect possible eye problems so they can act soon to save their sight.
THE CHILD’S EYE
Look regularly and carefully at the eye for any of these abnormalities:
- A white pupil or white spot on the pupil
- Not being able to fix on and follow a moving object such as a finger or toy
- One or both eyes being bigger or smaller than usual
- Crossed eyes or one eye looking in another direction
- Redness of the eye and around the eye and/ or crustiness
- Swelling or inflammation
- Excessive watering
- Protruding or sticking out
THE CHILD’S BEHAVIOUR
Does the child?
- Smile and follow the parent’s face by the time they are 3 months old, failure to complete this developmental milestone could indicate a vision problem.
- Cover or close one eye when trying to focus on something
- Hold objects close or get very close to the TV, computer or blackboard
- Have trouble reading or doing close-up work
- Tilt or angle the head when trying to focus
- Complain things are blurred or difficult to see
- Squint or frown when concentrating and / or looking at things in the distance
- See double
- Have jerky eye movements
- Rub their eyes a lots or complain of sore, itchy or scratchy eyes
In fact if you have any reason at all to be concerned about the child’s sight, help from a professional should be sought.
What can parents and caregivers do to protect eye health?
- Check that the ‘Eye’ section of the child’s Road to Health Clinic Card is completed (for South African residents only)
- Speak to a health care professional (i.e. community healthcare workers, GP, optometrist, your family doctor) immediately if you suspect a problem
- If your child requires spectacles ensure that they wear them: a child is never too young to wear glasses.
- Keep your child’s face and hands clean to minimise risk of eye infections
- Make sure that your newborn baby’s eyes are delicately wiped immediately after birth - to prevent conjunctivitis and other more serious infections
- Ensure your child is immunised for measles
- Make sure they get enough Vitamin A in their diet or if necessary get a supplement
- Know that even if a child is born blind it may be possible to restore sight – in about 40% of cases the vision problem could be treated
If you notice any of the above or have any reason at all to be concerned about your child’s sight seek professional advice.
See how George and Kehinde were helped through early intervention.
This information was compiled by Dr. Dharmesh Parbhoo (consultant ophthalmologist at the ORBIS sponsored Paediatric Eye Carer Centre at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, South Africal), ophthalmologist Dr Robert Linfield (ORBIS Medical Advisor) and optometrist Ms Reshma Dabideen (ORBIS Senior Medical Advisor) with thanks to Prevention Blindness America.