Childhood Eye Diseases and Conditions
The eyes are intricate and complex organs that constantly change throughout a person’s lifetime, a fact that can, at times, make diagnosing and treating the various problems that affect the eyes a complicated undertaking. Some issues that may be common in patients over forty, for example, may be virtually non-existent in young adults for patients still in their adolescence. In our eye care blogs, we have talked a great deal about many of the various conditions that affect aging eyes, but it is also important to realize that young and developing eyes have distinctive issues of their own that need to be addressed. In fact, according to Prevent Blindness America, one in four school-age children have vision problems that, if left untreated, can affect learning ability, personality and adjustment in school. Here are some of the more common diseases and conditions that can adversely affect a young person’s eyesight.
Problems with Eyelids and Tear Ducts
Abnormal skin growth, excess oil, or even an infection can potentially block or clog the tear ducts, oil-secreting glands in the eyelids, or eyelash follicles, causing painful swelling and redness. Some of these issues, like a stye that results from an infected eyelash follicle, are extremely common and represent only mild inconveniences. Others, like a chalazion or a clogged tear duct, may require a more aggressive treatment that could potentially include surgical intervention in order to achieve full relief.
Focus and Eye Alignment Disorders
One relatively common condition, affecting two to three percent of people in the U.S., is amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” which occurs when visual acuity is much better in one eye than in the other. Amblyopia is often the result of strabismus, or a misalignment of the eyes that most commonly occurs during early childhood. One eye may look straight ahead while the other turns in, out, up, or down. The brain learns to ignore signals from the misaligned eye to avoid double vision and gradually the nerve connections to that eye stop developing. Left untreated, this condition can lead to permanent vision loss in the weaker eye by the time the child is nine or ten years old, but if caught early during a simple vision screening it can easily be stopped and reversed.
In all cases of vision problems in children, early diagnosis and treatment are critical. It is important, however, to keep in mind that a vision screening performed by your pediatrician or the school nurse is not a comprehensive eye exam. While these screenings are very helpful, they are only designed to alert parents to the possibility of a visual problem, not to take the place of a visit to an eye care practitioner. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends that all children receive vision testing every two years if no vision correction is required, or annually if eyeglasses or contact lenses are required, starting at around 3 years of age and lasting through their teenage years. Young eyes can change very quickly, so regular exams are necessary in order to ensure that those changes aren’t negatively affecting performance from one year to the next. If you have questions about the health of your eyes, or would like to schedule an eye exam for yourself or for your child, please contact Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons to make an appointment with Dr. William Segal or Dr. Marc Lay. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more information on how to keep your vision clear.