Look after your child’s eyesight – problems can often be prevented by early detection and treatment.
It is important to get your child’s eyesight checked at an early age to avoid other issues later on. When children have vision issues or become ill, and these aren’t treated in time, it could lead to a lifetime of hardship. Eyesight issues contribute to added pressure at school, for instance, fitting in and performing well. If problems aren’t caught early enough, it could mean vision loss or blindness. But 80% of all blindness is preventable or treatable, says Orbis Africa.
Visual impairment can take on many forms and children are especially vulnerable as they may simply experience loss of vision as a normal occurrence. Twenty five thousand children in South Africa are blind mainly because of congenital cataracts, congenital glaucoma, malignant tumours (retinoblastoma), retinopathy of prematurity, inflammation and injuries. Strabismus, amblyopia and refractive errors cause many more children to have reduced vision. But eyesight is essential for early development as much of a child’s early learning comes through vision. Early treatment can prevent permanent vision loss.
vision checks are essential
Fifty percent of childhood blindness can be prevented by early detection and treatment. In children this is usually before the age of six, when the brain and eyes are still developing.
Before your child starts school for the year, or if you think she is experiencing vision problems, get her vision checked. Early intervention can mean the difference between a prosperous, fulfilled life and one spent hamstrung by blindness or visual impairment.
noticing the problem
Teachers are often best placed to notice a problem with a child’s vision. The child may have difficulty seeing the board, either squinting or walking up to the board to see better. In addition they may have trouble taking notes and hold a book right up to their face to read. If a teacher identifies a child with visual difficulties, they should meet with the parent or caregiver and the child to explain that there may be a problem.
At home, parents may notice one or all of these signs:
- their child sits too close to the TV
- child covers one eye to look at something
- red or watery eyes
- the child complains of headaches or sore eyes.
If a child is showing any of these signs, parents should have their eyes examined by a professional. Usually an optometrist would do the first examination. Optometrists are found in public sector hospitals and available privately.
Orbis Africa is a non-profit organisation that works in Sub-Saharan Africa to reduce preventable and treatable blindness and visual impairment on the continent. The organisation is dedicated to saving sight in Africa by improving comprehensive eye health with a primary focus on children.