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Eye Defects in Children

When an infant is about three months old, it begins to follow light and movement with steady eyes. By this time it can also begin focusing its eyes. If the child fails to do so, it indicates some congenital defects. At the age of six months to one year, the child is capable of discriminating between objects. In this age group, if the child cover or closes one eye in bright light, strikes against objects while crawling, moves his eyes excessively, or does not notice the presence of bright or coloured objects, the child has some eye defects and should be examined by a doctor.

Between the ages of 1 to 3, children become much more active and interested in the things happening around him. At this stage, if the child keeps playthings or books very close or far from the eyes, narrows his eyes while looking at the TV or other objects at a distance, strikes against objects while walking or has difficulty in finding things in dim light, it is once again an indication that the child needs an eye check-up.

A child's visual development is completed between the ages of 9-11. Early detection of visual defects is very important for the overall development of the child. Healthy eyes and clear vision enhance children's developmental, emotional, and physical well-being. Unfortunately, children often accept their vision problems as normal because they simply don't know better. Since they don't complain, many conditions go unnoticed.

Some of the common behavioural problems that can be noticed in school and possible reasons for such behaviour are listed below. It would be advisable for children with such problems to consult an eye specialist. Teachers who would like help in dealing with such children can seek email help.

1. Lack of interest in reading and doing very close work like painting, stitching, etc.
The eye muscles must be stretched to flatten the eye lens to see close objects and hence the eyes are under considerable stain. If the child has poor nourishment, its eyes may not be strong enough to work for a long time and hence the lack of interest.

2. Short attention span, frequent daydreaming.
4. Placing head close to book or written work.
5. Excessive blinking or rubbing of eyes.
When the eyes get tired, the child would rather stop paying attention and allow its brains to wander. Some of the above problems may also be due to double vision or blurred vision. In which case, an eye test is recommended.

6. Using finger to mark place when reading.
7. Problems with reading comprehension.
8. Omitting, repeating or confusing words.
9. Poor eye-hand coordination when copying from a blackboard, playing ball or manipulating buttons.
10. Tilting head to use only one eye or closing one eye.

Using both eyes are essential to seeing clearly and to perceive depth and distances. Sometimes both eyes do not team up properly. For instance when doing close work like reading, it is necessary for both eyes to point inward. But some children find it very difficult to retain their eyes in this position, in which case the eyes have a tendency to deviate outward. Every time the eyes move outward, there is a break in the continuity and reading becomes difficult. The child will learn to begin using the finger to mark the position where it is reading. While making the eye movements during the act of reading, the child may not land on the next word, but rather land a few words further on. Consequently, small words get omitted or confused. To make up the meaning (in older children) the child can add words or just by looking at the first part of the word complete it with a word from memory. If the two eyes are pointing at the same point in space, a person will see the fixated object as being single. Double vision or overlapping vision results if the two eyes are not exactly pointing at the same point.

In some children, the image from one eye can interfere with the other. Such children would have realized that they can see better if they use only one eye. That is when they tilt their head to see through one eye or cover up the other. Help can be provided to such children to learn to use the other eye also. The earlier such problem is detected the better.

11. Headaches, dizziness and nausea.
When the vision is not satisfactory, it is common for children to complain of headaches. There are many causes of headaches, but sometimes it could be due to eyestrain. Struggling to hold print in focus or to see the blackboard clearly can cause eyestrain. Try to find out when your child is experiencing the headaches. What activities cause them? How long they last?

12. Burning, itching eyes.
This could be due to allergy or infection.

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