Childhood is one of the most crucial periods in a human being’s life. It is here that the child is exposed to various stimuli in the environment, the most important of which undoubtedly would be sight. As the other senses are given due considerations such as hearing, touch, taste and smell, we place a premium on sight simply because of the developmental milestones associated with it and where hearing comes second are so important to function effectively as adults.
You see, eye care in children is one of the most overlooked aspects of healthcare because we assume that our child is able to perceive the world as most normal children their age would. One takes comfort in the fact that their child can run and play with his friends on the sandbox. But in order to ensure that the child is truly able to perceive the world as clearly as possible, screening tests have to be done in order to find out what potential eye diseases the child might have.
Of the myriad of childhood eye diseases ranging from common pink eye to devastating retinoblastoma recorded, the healthcare professional is put into the challenge of quickly and efficiently finding out diseases that are present in the child as playfully and engaged as possible. Children are not like adults who will immediately tell you what exactly the nature of their problem is. Hence the need of the physician to be an excellent observer as well as applier of the scientific method.
One of the first things to observe in a child with suspected eye disease is the child’s mannerisms. Does the child squint a lot? Does he or she rub his or eyes every once in a while? It may indicate the child has trouble focusing on objects. Does the child have trouble distinguishing between shades of blue or green? How about shades of red and yellow? Your child may be color blind and may require further screening tests like Ishihara in order to distinguish what kind of color blindness and what glasses they may have to wear to improve vision.
Another problem of concern is conjunctivitis or the more commonly known pink eye. Children are bound to be sticking their hands into the unknown as part of their exploratory nature. But the problem is that bacteria love to grow on moist surface such as the eye providing a haven for bacteria to multiply at a rapid rate. Without proper treatment, it leads to a decreased quality of life as well as a potential for vision loss. But with antibiotics and good hygiene, you can add this to a list of childhood diseases to experience.
But one of the worst diseases that is prone to pop up in the child population is the dreaded retinoblastoma. It’s a rare malignant cancer in the eye that totally leads to vision loss in children. Diagnosis is of extreme importance as once the diagnosis of retinoblastoma is established, the treatment is focused on saving the life, followed by preserving vision the finally minimizing complications. A variety of interventions can be used as the cryotherapy, thermotherapy as minimalist interventions or the more drastic enucleation of the eye.
Some conditions result into loss of the eye which require a prosthesis to be in place. To ensure that the eye socket does not collapse, regular clean up and insertion of the prosthesis must be done to reduce the chances of infection. The child should be taught how to clean and insert it himself to ensure independence.
Ensuring the vision of the child is of the greatest importance to improve the quality of life. What makes the challenge hard in this case is the ability of the parents as well as the healthcare provider to make astute observations and the necessary interventions to preserve and maintain vision.
No doubt in the future as more babies are born, the need for improved screening and healthcare will be in place to ensure a better quality of life for the children of tomorrow.
What are you waiting for? Have your kids or someone you know who has kids have their eyes checked up. You might end up saving their lives.