Healthy Eyes for Kids
Monitoring eye health should begin at birth and continue throughout childhood and into adulthood. Having good vision and healthy eyes is crucial to a child’s development. Poor vision in children can result in frustration and anger in the child as well as poor performance in school and sports. Children should visit with an eye specialist on a routine basis and early in life to keep eyes healthy and to find any eye conditions that may occur and require treatment. With proper eye care, children can maintain healthy eyes for a lifetime.
Routine eye examinations by your doctor are essential for healthy eyes. If your eyes are bothering you or if you are having trouble seeing, tell a parent or teacher so that they can bring you to get your eyes checked by an eye specialist. An ophthalmologist is a type of doctor who examines and diagnosis eye infections and diseases. They are specially trained to treat various eye conditions with the exception of treatments that require surgery. Eye examinations should be performed at least every two years or more often if you have an eye problem, such as early cataracts or glaucoma, or if your family has a history of eye problems.
Common Vision Problems
Many kids wonder if there is any truth to the stories told about eye care. For instance, you may have been told that sitting too close to the TV can damage your eyes. This statement is wrong. You may have heard that reading with a night light instead of a brighter light can lead to nearsightedness. There is no scientific evidence to prove this true. Straining your eyes to see in dim light will not affect your vision.
So if the factors mentioned do not affect vision, what causes common eye problems? In most cases, the shape of the eye is to blame for less than perfect vision. An individual who has perfect, or 20/20 vision, has eyes that are completely round. An individual who need glasses or contact lenses to see have eyes that are shaped differently.
Myopia, also referred to as nearsightedness, is a common vision problem among teenagers. Individuals with myopia do not have the ability to see things far away clearly. This is caused by eyes that are somewhat longer than average, starting at the front of the eye and moving towards the back. The excess length causes light to focus on the front of the retina instead of on it. Prescription glasses or contact lenses are usually a suitable treatment for myopia.
Hyperopia, also referred to as farsightedness, is another common vision problem. Individuals with this condition have difficulty seeing things clearly that are close up. This is caused by their eyes being slightly too short. In hyperopia, light focuses behind the retina instead of focusing on it, resulting in blurry vision. Glasses and contact lenses are generally used for treatment of hyperopia. Fun Fact: Most babies are born with farsightedness but grow out of it as their eyes grow in length as they get older.
Astigmatism is another eye condition in which the eye is shaped differently. Individuals with astigmatism have eyes with a cornea that is not perfectly round. To see clearly, both far away and up close, glasses or contact lenses are required.
At the age of 18, the eyes are considered full grown and are not likely to change in the future. Many people consider having refractive surgery at this point to correct eye conditions, such as myopia, hyperopia or astigmatism. Refractive surgery is typically performed with a laser that reshapes the eye, allowing light to enter it properly for clear vision. When performed successfully, eye glasses and contact lenses are no longer needed to see.
Dealing with Common Eye Problems and Injuries
When dealing with any type of eye problem or injury, it’s best to be safe and get it checked out.
- Get your eye checked if one or both become red, if you experience pain in an eye that does not go away after a brief period of time, or if you experience any changes in your vision.
- Get your eye checked if you get any foreign object stuck in your eye, such as metal shavings or sawdust. Never rub the eye if this occurs. Flush the eye in lukewarm water for several minutes. If the eye still causes discomfort, see an eye specialist.
- Get your eye checked if it has been injured or hit, begins to bleed or looks odd. If you experience changes in your vision or lose your vision, go directly to the hospital emergency room to get checked out.
One of the more common types of injuries among youth is a scratched cornea. This is often the cause of playing sports or wearing contact lenses. When this occurs, you may feel like there is something in the eye when in reality, there is not. With a scratched cornea, the eye may appear irritated and red, produce excess tears or be sensitive to light.
If you experience an eye injury and wear contact lenses, discontinue wearing the lenses until you have been examined by an eye specialist. Continuing to wear contact lenses with an eye injury can lead to infection or cause damage to the eye. Scratched corneas are usually not a cause for alarm. Most heal within a week or two with medicated eye drops. During the healing process, do not wear your contact lenses.
Caring for Your Eyes
It’s important to care for your eyes to keep them healthy and your vision sharp. One way to do this is to wear sunglasses while outdoors. Choose a pair of shades with ultraviolet (UV) protection. Ultraviolet rays can lead to long-term damage to the internal structures of the eye. Wearing sunglasses while outdoors can reduce your risk of getting eye conditions, such as macular degeneration and cataracts.
Macular degeneration is a type of eye disease that occurs when the macula (structure of the eye that allows vision) begins to deteriorate. This can lead to gradual vision loss or even blindness. Fun Fact: Smoking puts you at a higher risk for acquiring macular degeneration. Cataracts are another type of vision problem that occurs when the lens of the eye becomes clouded, resulting in impaired vision.
Wearing protective eyewear whenever you play sports or when working on projects in the science lab or shop class can help keep your eyes safe. The eyes could potentially become damaged from spilled liquids or flying objects. Avoid dangerous situations, such as fireworks, that could explode and cause lasting damage to the eyes. Do not take these types of chances with your vision.
While it may seem obvious to protect your eyes from harmful things like fireworks, it’s still important to practice eye care in your own home. For example, staring at the computer screen for too long can hurt your eyes. This is because the average person blinks a total of 10 times per minute. When staring at something, that number deceases to 2 or 3 times per minute. Therefore, it’s beneficial to blink more and change your focus frequently. Try looking at an object across the room every few minutes to prevent this from happening.
Dry and irritated eyes caused from staring can be treated with artificial tears. Avoid eye products that remove the red from your eyes as they contain a chemical that temporarily reduces redness which comes back worse later. Take special care of your eyes, especially if you have any type of medical condition. Conditions, such as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes, put you at a higher risk for serious eye disease. It’s also important to visit with your eye doctor at least once per year. For more serious conditions that can affect your eyes, you may need to see a doctor as often as every three months.
Preventing Eye Infections
The key to protecting your eyes from infection is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Conjunctivitis, commonly referred to as pinkeye, is a type of eye infection caused by bacteria, a virus, a chemical, an allergic reaction or an irritant.
When conjunctivitis is caused by bacteria or viruses, it can be spread from person to person. For example, you could get pinkeye by shaking hands with someone who has the infection and then touching your own eye.
To prevent the spread of germs that can lead to eye infections:
- Do not share eye drops or eye makeup with anyone else.
- Do not contaminate the tip of an eye drop bottle by touching it with your hands.
- Do not wet contact lenses by putting them into your mouth. There may be viruses or bacteria in your mouth that could spread to the contact lenses and into your eyes.
- Always wash your hands on a regular basis and before touching your eyes.
Glasses and Contacts
If you find out that you are in need of corrective glasses or contact lenses, there are several tips that you should follow. It’s typically better to choose smaller frames when looking for glasses. Larger frames create more distortion and may cause you not to see as well.
Always follow the instructions provided by your eye specialist after getting contact lenses. Learn how to properly clean the lenses and find out how many hours you can wear them safely before they need to be replaced. Not following these instructions can lead to serious eye infections or eye ulcers that are difficult to treat and may require medications or surgery.
Clear vision is something that no one should be without. Keep your eyes healthy for many years to come by protecting them now.
Caring for your eyes involves remembering important eye safety tips. Always walk; never run, with sharp objects that could injury yourself or your eyes, such as pencils, pens, scissors or rulers. Avoid playing with dangerous objects, including sling shots, guns, bow-and-arrows and firecrackers. Use proper lighting when writing, reading or just surfing the web to prevent your eyes from tiring. Learn basic first aid so that you can treat mild eye injuries if they do occur. Remember to always tell a parent or educator if your eyes are bothering you. Wear sufficient eye protection, such as goggles, when working with dangerous chemicals or performing hazardous chores. Chemicals should be pointed away from the face when spraying. Never look directly at the sun as this can cause damage to the eyes.