When I started practising in Mumbai, I began organising eye screening camps for students in different schools. One day, we were examining children between 4-6 years of age in two high-profile schools in South Mumbai. Later a couple came at my clinic who turned out to be parents of a child whom I had examined at one of the eye camps, they were upset that I have checked their child when the child is ‘absolutely fine’. But actually, it was the school who took the initiative and organised an eye checkup camp for students after realising the importance of routine eye checkup in kids.
This made me understand that parents don’t understand how important it is for their children to undergo a routine eye exam. The only time when parents take their kids for an eye checkup is when the child himself/herself complains about having an eye problem. In reality, eye examination for kids under 4 years of age is necessary as it becomes easy for parents and as well as for doctors to spot and treat eye issues before things become worse.
Here are five things which will encourage all parents to take children for a routine eye checkup:
1) Children don't know what normal vision is. They think that everyone around them sees the world just like them see the world. If the child is seeing less than normal or blurry, the child may think that their vision is just like everybody else's and hence, does not complain.
2) The child may have poor vision only in one eye. Thus, they can do everything that they have to do like playing, running or catching a ball, everything with one working eye. Everybody, including the child, thinks that he/she are completely normal. You will agree nobody really covers one eye at the time to check the vision in the other.
This poor vision in one eye could be due to a few reasons. More common is having different eye power in each eye. This is known as anisometropia. They could also have poor vision in one eye due to cataract. Usually, it is seen that adults develop cataract after a certain age, but in rare cases, it’s found that kids are born with cataracts.
3) Usually, vision development occurs in the first eight years of life. Now, if for whatever reason this vision development is hampered in one or both eyes then after eight years of age, the doctor would not be able to do much. The child will have a defective vision for the rest of his life. This poor vision is known as Amblyopia or a lazy eye. Thus, ruling out a lazy eye in our children becomes very important.
4) All of us have seen adults with a squint. There are many squints that occur in children and it would be to their benefit if they are operated early. Binocularity is the reason why it may be beneficial to get operated early. Now, what is binocularity? We see things with two eyes. And an image of what we are looking at is formed in each eye and that information is sent to the brain. The brain fuses both these images together and makes them one and thus we see one person or one pen and so on. This ability to see with two eyes but see one object is taken for granted by all of us. This ability gives us what is known as depth perception. When someone has a squint, they don’t have binocularity and correcting the squint may restore this ability.
5) With increased screen times the amount of near work has increased exponentially. Studies have shown that increased near work can increase the risk of myopia (Minus numbered glasses). There is a possibility that your child could have developed myopia, thanks to school from home and increased screen time amid pandemic.
(Dr Deepak Garg is a Cataract and Squint specialist and Founder Eye Solutions, Mumbai)