Frequently rubbing the eyes, squinting, squeezing the eyes to cocus, watching TV too close up, and stumbling often while walking. These are just some of the signs that your child’s eyesight need to be checked.
“In retrospect, he sat very close to the TV screen while watching cartoons, but we did not think much of it then,” said Dr Rohan Chawla, senior consultant ophthalmologist, Max super-specialty Hospital, Saket, whose three-and-a-half-year-old son, Ronit, was prescribed spectacles a few days ago.
Although annual medical check-ups at schools are helping pick up refractive eye problems in children, few parents are taking their children for detailed eye tests to rule out other eye disorders and defects.
“Vision testing can be done when a child starts speaking, but it is necessary to make children undergo comprehensive eye checks up just before they start school around the age of three years,” said Dr Ritika Sachdev, additional director medical services, Centre for Sight chain of eye hospitals.
“A simple chart-reading test from a distance of about six metres can detect defects in eyesight. Most children who comes to us have complained of not being able to read blackboards from the last bench or not copying from blackboards correctly,” said Dr Chawla.
“Once a child has glasses, he will have to continue wearing them for life. No medicine can help. And not wearing them will result in a complicated condition called lazy eye, wherein the stronger eye overtakes the weaker eye, which becomes incurable with age,” said Dr Chawla.
In most cases, myopia (the minus number) increases till about 18-20 years — corresponding with the body’s growth — after which it stabilises.
The first decade of a child’s life, when the brain is learning to see, is best suited to treat the lazy eye condition. Once a person gets older, treatments currently available cannot cure the problem. This condition is commonly treated by putting a patch on the stronger eye so that the child learns to use his weaker eye.
“Parents and school teachers play a crucial role in ensuring that the child doesn’t feel awkward moving around with a patch on one eye,” said Dr Sachdev. The treatment can last from few months to a year.
All that parents need is to stay alert to early signs so that there is no delay in child’s treatment.