Refractive Errors in Childhood
What is a Refractive Error?
A Refractive Error is a very common eye disorder that takes place when the eye is not able to focus on images causing your vision to become blurry. There are various refractive errors and these include -
1. Myopia (Nearsightedness)
In Myopia an image of an object kept at a distance becomes focused in front of the retina. The most common among the types of refractive errors, myopia enables distant objects to appear out of focus.
2. Hyperopia (Farsightedness)
In Hyperopia the image of a near-distanced object becomes focused behind the retina and objects that are close remain out of focus.
Two focal points fall in two different areas because of the abnormal curvature of the cornea in Astigmatism. Due to this, objects sitting at a close distance and the ones placed farther away appear blurry. Astigmatism may be combined with myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness).
When the shape of the eye prevents light from focusing directly on the retina it leads to a refractive error. Length of the eyeball (too long or too short), changes in the shape of the cornea and aging are some factors that cause a refractive error.
Myopia takes place either because the eyeball axis is too long or on account of the refractive power of the eye being too strong. It causes headaches and/or eye strain.
Hyperopia takes place either because of the eyeball axis being too short or because the refractive power of the eye is too weak. Headaches, eye strain and fatigue are caused due to hyperopia. A child with hyperopia squints, rubs their eyes, displays a decreased interest in school or has trouble reading.
Astigmatism takes place because of the abnormal curvature of the cornea and causes headaches, eye strain and fatigue. Children with astigmatism often engage in eye rubbing, show a lack of interest in school and experience a difficulty in reading.
What are the Symptoms of Refractive Errors?
Apart from the symptoms mentioned above, here are some other symptoms you must watch out for in your child -
1. Holding objects too close to the eyes
2. Clumsy Movement
3. Does not notice things happening at a distance
4. Sitting extremely close to the television set while watching a programme
5. Constantly making mistakes while taking down notes during class
6. Constant eye squeezing while sitting in front of digital devices, television or the computer
Diagnosis for Refractive Errors
Refractive errors are diagnosed through an eye examination. To prevent the eye from focusing and compensating for the optical error, dilating eye drops is used. In doing so, the optical power of the eye is measured in diopters (a unit of refractive power).
A refractive error cannot be prevented. But through early detection and treatment your child’s vision can get corrected.
To treat refractive errors the doctor will prescribe corrective lenses in glasses, contact lenses or refractive surgery depending on the kind of refractive error.
Your vision develops in the first few years after birth. If your child has a refractive error, it’s always better to get it detected and treated at an early age. Otherwise, your child will suffer severe consequences.
What is pediatric cataract: A cataract is the clouding of
the eye's lens. The lens is supposed to be crystal clear to enable smooth visual
inputs to the brain. The lens is the first form of contact with the light. The
light then goes to the brain via the retina. In the case of a cataract, this
light may get scattered due to the lens's cloudiness. When children suffer from
this opacity in their eye's lens, it is known as a pediatric cataract. If left
untreated, cataracts can lead to blindness. A pediatric cataract can have
long-term effects on a child's vision.
Causes: Pediatric cataracts can occur due to many reasons. Depending on the child's family history, a cataract can present itself at birth, or a child may develop the disorder as he grows. If a cataract is present at birth, it's known as a congenital cataract. Common causes of a pediatric cataract are:
● Genetic defect inherited from the parents' genes
● Genetic conditions such as Down syndrome
● Hereditary cataract issues
● Injury to the eye after birth
● Complications during birth
Yet, sometimes, the cause of a pediatric cataract may be unknown.
Symptoms: Cataracts are hard to spot if they are small in size. Infants can track the objects in their surroundings by the time they reach four months. If you notice that your baby isn't reacting to light and colors as he/she usually should, you should immediately schedule an ophthalmologist appointment.
Diagnosis: A routine screening of the eyes is enough to reach the diagnosis. However, developmental cataracts may occur after regular screenings. So, one must be extra careful about their child's vision and notice their habits carefully.
Prevention: In the case of a family history of cataracts, your child's doctor will be on the lookout for this disorder. In the case of an acquired cataract, prevention may not be possible. However, early detection can help prevent the cataract from progressing into long term vision problems.
Treatment: The treatment of a pediatric cataract depends on the progression of the disorder. Children with visually significant cataract would require surgery and those with visually insignificant cataract may be kept under observation.
Surgery: In the case of an advanced cataract, your doctor may recommend surgery. The affected lens is replaced with an artificial lens. Or, the child may have to wear contact lenses or glasses to replace the affected lens after surgery.
Takeaway: Childhood cataracts are treatable. Children with pediatric cataracts can go on to have a fully functional life. But the affected eye(s) may always have reduced vision.
Children and Eye Allergies
What is an Eye Allergy?
An eye allergy takes place when our eyes react to an allergen or a substance that causes an allergy. Our eyes create a substance known as histamine to kill the allergen and it makes our eyelids and conjunctiva red, swollen and itchy.
Also known as allergic conjunctivitis, eye allergies are quite common among children.
Following are the allergens responsible for the birth of eye allergies.
Allergies caused due to pollen are typically seasonal. Tree pollen results in spring allergies, grass pollen causes summer allergies and weed pollen causes fall allergies. It also depends on what kind of pollen a child is allergic to. A child could be allergic to a multitude of pollens covering most of the year. Each seasonal allergy lasts for about 4-8 weeks.
Pet animals like dogs, cats, rabbits and horses carry dander (tiny flecks of skin). Often pet dander can be spread in the air when these animals move about. It can also reach into or around our eyes accidentally after touching these animals. In case you own a pet animal, your child will experience allergic symptoms all year round if he/she is allergic to animal dander.
3. House Dust
House dust is a combination of pollen, dander, molds and much more. A child who is allergic to these allergens could experience allergic symptoms throughout the year.
When a child comes in contact with these allergens, they tend to rub their eyes excessively as a response. Some of the symptoms they may experience include -
1. Nasal Congestion
2. Runny nose
3. Scratchy throat
5. Itchy Eyes
6. Excessive Eye Rubbing
7. White portion of the eyes turning pink/red
8. Swelling/Redness of the eyelids
9. Glassy-looking or swollen eyes
Several other eye diseases and inflammatory eye diseases possess symptoms similar to eye allergies or conjunctivitis like bacterial/viral pink eye and complication in contact lenses. You must get in touch with your eye doctor to figure out what the issue could be, so that your child can begin treatment.
Treatment options depend on what your child is allergic to and the gravity of the allergic reaction.
1. Anti-histamine or anti-allergy eye drops will be prescribed by your doctor if the allergy symptoms are present in the eyes.
2. If the eye allergy is severe, other anti-inflammatory eye drops can be prescribed to use for a short time to control an acute allergic reaction.
3. If the symptoms include a runny nose or cough, an oral anti-allergy medication will be prescribed based on your child’s needs.
4. Use a warm, damp, clean cloth to clean off allergens resting on your body and face.
Trying to keep your child away from allergens obviously seems easier said than done, even though it is the best preventive option. However, what you can do is consult an eye doctor to discuss the best preventive care option to reduce the severity of the reaction whenever the eye allergy comes up.
Consult your eye doctor as soon as your child experiences symptoms of an allergic reaction and try to keep your child away from things that cause the allergy as much as possible.
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