Eye, or vision, problems are different for various age groups:
- Among school-age children
- Among young adults/college students
Your child’s vision is the most important tool that s/he needs in order to succeed in school.
Examination of vision among pre-school and primary school-going children is very rarely practised in India, unless an obvious problem is noted. Often the problem is dealt with too late.
It is possible to check vision in children who cannot read alphabets. All children attending kindergarten must be checked during admission.
How to detect common eye problems
- Basic eye examination for every newborn by the paediatrician [child specialist]
- First detailed eye examination for all children at the age of six months; again, at two years, and then annually
- Screenings at school designed to alert parents on the possibility of a visual problem [This cannot, however, replace visit to an eye specialist]
- The visual system is developing as the child grows, so annual prescription changes are common. Hence, annual checks are important.
Tips on daily eye care
A healthy diet with emphasis on green leafy vegetables, drumstick, carrot, beetroot, fresh fruits, including mango and papaya, is a must. These are particularly rich in Vitamin A.
Light source should be positioned behind your child while they are reading. Avoid direct glare by using shielded light. Reading material should ideally be placed 12-14 inches away.
Visual Display Units [VDU]
These include TVs and computer screens. Headaches, eyestrain, burning, watering, blurring of vision, double vision and nausea can all be caused by prolonged work on VDUs.
- Avoid watching TV in a dark room. A well-lit room with white light [tubelight] is ideal
- Preferred viewing distance for watching TV is 4 metre, or more
- Place the computer screen at eye level, or slightly lower, and in such a way as to minimise reflection and glare. The recommended distance between the monitor and the eyes for children is 18-28 inches. By viewing the computer screen closer than 18 inches, children risk straining their eyes.
Parents and teachers should be aware of any behaviour that indicates potential problems, such as redness, frequent rubbing of the eyes, head turns and other unusual postures, or complaints of blurriness, or eye fatigue. Avoidance of the computer may also be an indication of discomfort. Do not let your child sit for more than 40 minutes continuously in front of the computer screen/monitor.
Common colds and allergies are common among today’s growing children. It is important not to allow your child to knuckle or rub his/her eyes hard as this can be habitual and lead to corneal abnormalities like keratoconus. Hence, always address the root cause, or trigger, of allergy.
Water-tight swimming goggles prevent irritation due to chlorine and reduce the chances of infection.
If your child is involved in ball games and/or contact sports, protective eye wear made of polycarbonate is recommended.
Exposure to sunlight is healthy in moderation and helps in the “manufacture” of vitamin D by the body. Too much exposure to bright sunlight is harmful and can cause damage. Wide brimmed hats and UV-filtering sunglasses provide adequate protection.
Application of kajal to newborns, or washing the eyes with normal water, rose water etc., is an absolute no-no. The normal circulation of tears is enough to adequately cleanse the eye of any extraneous material.
Young adults/college students
This refers to a collection of symptoms that make up an eye condition due to imbalance in the quantity, or quality, of tears. What you may feel is gritty eyes, pricking or burning sensation, irritation or a feeling of a foreign body in the eyes. What you need to do is avoid contact lens wear, use a lubricating eye drop, and reduce the time of work on computers. Air from a fan or air-conditioner directed on the face could worsen the symptoms.
Computer Vision Syndrome
It is common for computer users to have dry eyes. This is because we don’t blink much and we keep our eyes wide open while working on the computer. This results in drying up of the tear film. Symptoms can be caused –
- Poor position in relation to the computer
- Lighting that produces glare or reflections, fuzzy images or images that are too dim or too bright
- Failure to blink often enough to moisten the surface of the eyes
- Use of glasses that are inappropriate for the user’s position and distance from the screen;
- Minor visual defects such as astigmatism that might go unnoticed unless intense computer use exaggerates them.
The following steps may help alleviate your symptoms:
- Lower your computer screen so that the centre of the screen is 4-8 inches below your eye level and at a viewing distance of 20-28 inches
- Use artificial tears as recommended by your doctor to re-wet and lubricate your eyes
- If you are seated in a draught or near an air vent, try to change your seating or position and direct the draught away from your eyes
- Low humidity or fumes aggravate a dry eye condition
- Concentrate on blinking whenever you begin to sense symptoms of dry or irritated eyes
- Take frequent breaks. Follow the 20-20-20 rule. This simply means every 20 minutes, look away beyond 20 feet and blink 20 times.
This is typically caused by:
- Fatigue and eye strain, reading in poor light, lack of sleep
- Poor contact lens hygiene/contact lens allergies
- Infections, conjunctivitis, bacterial [infections] or allergic [e.g., dust].
If you suffer prolonged discomfort or notice a marked change in your vision, you should immediately undergo an eye examination.
Eyes are precious. Attend to them as early and as effectively as possible. They are your window to the world and the world’s window to your soul.