Blindness And Children’s Vision Health
The National Health Observance (NHO) creates awareness about the importance of protecting children’s vision and eye health. June 2023 is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness Month. It is important to note that children at their age have no reference to what their vision should be. Therefore they may accept blurred vision or other vision issues. We as adults need to pay close attention to unusual behavior related to school and social activities. Catching this early and implementing corrective actions can improve their lives.
New research shows that fifty percent of childhood blindness in the United States is avoidable. The leading causes of childhood blindness are retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), nystagmus, and cataract. These are treatable and preventable causes. However, other studies suggest that the leading causes are related to developmental disabilities associated with cortical visual impairment and optic nerve hypoplasia, and ROP. (AAO.Org and IRIS, Oct 2022)
Children Blindness Globally
Childhood blindness, globally, is the second largest cause of blind-person years which is second to cataracts. This represents approximately 70 million blind person years which is a primary cause of childhood blindness. Worldwide there are about 1.5 million blind children, and this number is growing. Approximately one-third of the total economic cost of blindness is thought to be due to childhood blindness. There are at least 450 million children, globally, that have a sight condition that needs treatment, with 90 million children living with some form of sight loss.
Dr. Debi Sarma, an optometrist believes that when a child’s vision is impaired, their education suffers. It is important to note that our eyes were made to look into the distance, not at bright screens for hours. Some studies have shown a link between school success with corrected vision. It is important for parents, educators, and others who come in contact with children to recognize the importance of eye exams and the role they play in identifying potential vision problems which will enhance their ability to remain successful in the classroom and with their social life. Children today in spending more time in front of digital devices for school, social activities, and visual learning. This is taking a toll on their vision health.
Childhood blindness is the second largest cause of blind-person years, and this is second to cataracts. Globally, there are 70 million blind person years resulting from childhood blindness. Worldwide this represents 1.5 million blind children, and this number is increasing. One-third of the total economic cost of blindness is thought to be due to childhood blindness. In many states, there are public school laws that require students to undergo a simple vision screening in school. However, these evaluations miss between 70 and 80 percent of vision problems. Early detection through diagnosis and treatment through a comprehensive eye exam is critical for preventing vision impairments in children that can result in permanent vision loss or blindness.
Eye Statistics That Reveal The Importances Of Children’s Routine Eye Exams (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and 20/20 Onsite
- Approximately 6.8% of children younger than 18 years in the United States have a diagnosed eye and vision condition. Nearly 3 percent of children younger than 18 years are blind or visually impaired, defined as having trouble seeing even when wearing glasses or contact lenses.
- Refractive errors, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, crossed eyes, and lazy eye, are seen in almost 20 percent of children.
- Refractive errors, particularly myopia, are a leading and increasing cause of visual impairment and blindness in children
- More than one in 20 preschool-age children and one in four school-age children have a vision disorder.
- Approximately 80% of all children’s learning in their first 12 years comes through their eyes
- Fewer than 15% of preschool children receive an annual eye exam by an eye professional
- Amblyopia (often called “lazy eye”) is the most common cause of vision loss in children, which is found in about 2 percent of children ages six months to six years old
- The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends vision screening for all children at least once between ages 3 and 5 years to detect amblyopia or risk factors for the disease
- Approximately 500,000 children become blind every year—one every minute—and about half of them die within one or two years of becoming blind. Approximately one-third of the total economic cost of blindness is thought to be due to childhood blindness
- Globally, at least 450 million children have a sight condition that needs treatment, with 90 million children living with some form of sight loss.
- 448 million children and adolescents have refractive errors.
- 90 million children and adolescents live with sight loss.
Things To Watch For (Source: Raising Children)
- Their eyes move quickly from side to side (nystagmus), jerking or wandering randomly.
- Their eyes don’t follow your face or an object.
- They don’t seem to make eye contact with family and friends.
- Their eyes don’t react to bright light being turned on in the room.
- Their pupils seem white or cloudy rather than black – you might notice this in photos.
- Their eyes turn in towards their nose or drift outwards towards the side of their face – this might happen sometimes or all the time.
An Older Child
- hold things up close to their face
- say they’re tired or rub their eyes a lot
- turn or tilt their head or cover one eye when looking at things up close
- get tired after looking at things up close – for example, reading, drawing, or playing handheld games
- seem to see better during the day than at night
- seem to have crossed or turned eyes or a squint
- seem clumsy – for example, they might knock things over or trip often.
What Can You Do
- Get the proper nutrients…Childhood blindness is commonly caused by vitamin A deficiency, measles, congenital cataracts, conjunctivitis in the newborn, and retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). The relative prevalence of these causes varies in different resource settings (Source: ScienceDirect)
- Through Education and Outreach…conduct preschool vision screening
- Make sure your child gets periodic eye exams
- Make sure your child takes breaks..use the 20/20/20 rule
- Provide sufficient lighting
- Make sure your children hold devices at least an elbow’s length from their eyes.
- Keep screen time at a minimum
If you believe that your child is experiencing vision problems contact us immediately. It is imperative that we examine your child to determine potential issues and recommend solutions/next steps.