It goes without saying that eyes play an extremely important role in the learning process. As a result, screening/testing children’s eyes from the age of 3 is proving to be extremely beneficial.

 

Why from such a young age?

The earlier a problem is detected the better. A child with a squint in one eye for example, if not detected early (preferably as soon as it is noticed by the parents) can present with extremely reduced vision of that eye, known as amblyopia. If not detected before the age of 7 it becomes extremely difficult to improve the eyesight of that squinting eye. There are cases where a child has such a small squint (micro squint) that it is not obvious to the parents and is only picked up on a screening examination. Amblyopia can also occur when one eye is a lot weaker than the other. This too can be missed by the parents as the good eye compensates for the weaker one.

 

Symptoms to look out for.

  • Children sitting too close to the T.V. or holding a book too closely
  • Blinking/rubbing of the eyes
  • Eyes watering when reading
  • Screwing up eyes when looking into the distance
  • Closing one eye when in bright light
  • Complaints of blurred or double vision
  • Complaints of lines shifting into one another when reading
  • Turning or tilting of the head
  • An eye turning in/out/up (squinting)
  • Droopy lid
  • Clumsiness

 

Some statistics to show the importance of screening children’s eyes:

From June 2013 to December 2014, I assessed 7562 pupils in the Durban Area. Considering these tests are voluntary the results are not absolute.

Of those that were tested, an average of 12, 5 % in pre-primary were referred for follow-up examinations by an Ophthalmologist or Optometrist, or for eye muscle therapy.

In primary school an average of 21, 6% were referred (includes Junior Primary schools).

Why the increase in the number referred in the higher grades? Short-sightedness often presents itself in the latter senior primary years. Children with eye muscle weaknesses usually experience discomfort when they are older and confronted with more close work. Hence the need for regular eye testing.

Has technology had an effect on the eyes?

There is no research that shows that technology can cause permanent vision damage, but spending too much time staring at bright screens can cause tension headaches, dry eyes and eyestrain (Dr. R. Shugarman, University of Miami. 1 April 2011)

Di van Dam    Orthoptist

 

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