As parents, there is a lot to think about when it comes to your child’s eyesight and well-being. Though it may seem that good vision is genetic and there isn’t much you can do to change that, there are some factors and risks to consider that can affect your child’s vision. Read on to learn more about your child’s eyesight at all stages and how you can protect it.
Protecting your Baby’s Eyesight
Taking care of your baby’s eyesight begins in utero. There are some factors which can affect a baby’s vision once they are born. These include:
- Premature birth– Premature infants are more likely to suffer vision loss and blindness, a condition often referred to as retinopathy of prematurity.
- Bacterial Meningitis– This disease can cause severe vision loss in infants.
How to eliminate risks to your baby’s eyesight:
- Make healthy lifestyle choices while pregnant. Smoking for example, increases both the risk of premature birth and a baby contracting bacterial meningitis; both factors in severe vision loss. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, if you smoke while pregnant your baby has five times the risk of contracting bacterial meningitis.
- Get your baby’s eyes checked after they are born and have regular eye exams to ensure your baby’s vision is developing properly.
Risks to Your Toddler’s Vision
There are some factors that can negatively impact your toddler’s developing eyesight. These include:
- Measles- Once eradicated, this disease has made a resurgence in recent years, according to the Center for Disease Control. The virus is the leading cause of blindness, harming children’s eyes and vision in several ways warns, Web MD.
- Chemical Burns– Toddler’s are most at risk for chemical burns from household cleaning products which can cause blindness if splashed into eyes. One year old children are most at risk.
- Misalignment- if your child’s eyes are misaligned, a condition referred to as strabismus it can cause permanent vision problems.
How to Protect your Toddler’s Vision
- Talk to your doctor about vaccines for measles to lower their risk of contracting the virus.
- Place cleaners and chemical products in an area that is safe and out of your toddler’s reach.
- Take your child for frequent eye exams, and call your Toronto area eye doctor if you suspect misalignment or focussing issues. The sooner it is corrected, the better.
What to watch for in School-Aged Children
Once your child is school-aged, watch for signs that they may be falling behind in school. Poor vision can often contribute to learning issues. If your child complains they can’t see the blackboard, or if they get headaches often, make sure you have their eyes tested as they may need glasses for vision correction.
Other indicators of vision problems in this age group include:
- Sudden loss of interest in activities that require extensive eye use
- If your child often loses his/her place while reading
- If your child turns his/her head to look at something in front of them
Other conditions that can affect your child’s eyesight include:
- Colour blindness– This condition may become more apparent once your child reaches school age and is more common in boys.
- Cataracts- Congenitally or after birth, children can get cataracts, known as pediatric cataracts which can cause abnormal brain/eye connections that may be irreversible if not detected. Luckily this is usually discovered in baby eye exams which is why it’s so important to get your child’s eyes tested with regular pediatric eye exams.
How to Protect your Teen’s Eyesight
The biggest risk to children’s eyesight once they reach the teenage years are:
- Eye Injury– Children’s eye injuries are one of the leading causes of blindness. Baseball is a major cause of blindness in children over the age of 14 according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
- Improper Contact Care– Wearing contact lenses incorrectly (make sure to get contacts properly and professionally fitted), improperly cleaning contact lenses, or wearing them longer than recommended can lead to eye infections, and can impair vision and lead to blindness in serious cases.
What you can do
- Make sure your child wears protective goggles or eyewear while playing sports. According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists, 90% of eye injuries can be prevented by protective eyewear.
- Make sure your teen properly takes care of, cleans and disposes contact lenses to avoid infection.
20/20 Vision now and In the Future
Your child’s eyesight is important. It will help them learn and enjoy life to the fullest. Protect it at all stages of their development by making regular eye exam appointments and watching out for any of the risks discussed in this post and your child can stay 20/20 for life.