ORBIS International is a medical group dedicated to providing vision screening and vision care to children in developing nations. Gene Helveston, MD, of Indiana University and an ORBIS official, was interviewed on The Sharon Kleyne Hour syndicated talk radio show on February 11, 2008 (www.modavox.worldtalkradio.com). Following is an excerpt.
Sharon: What is the status of eye care education and children’s vision worldwide?
Dr. Helveston: Most children are born with normal vision but immature eyes. Development takes place rapidly and parents usually don’t pay much attention because they expect everything to be normal. But things can go wrong very fast and while this doesn’t happen often, it can be disastrous if not caught early. Parents need to be educated to detect eye health problems early.
S: What are the signals of vision problems in newborns?
H: Above all, the cornea should be clear, glistening and bright, with no mucus or mottled spots. The tear film should look normal.
S: Explain about the tear film.
H: The tear film is the primary vehicle for moistening and light refraction and it maintains perfect eye clarity. It should not look dry or mottled. Very few parents are aware of this.
S: What are some other things to look for?
H: A white reflection appearing inside the eye, called a “cat’s eye.” This is the earliest sign of retinal blastoma and it infects one in 18,000 to 20,000 children. It not only can cause blindness, it is lethal if not treated.
S: Are there symptoms related to the skin around the eye?
H: Yes, in older children, toddlers and preschoolers. Parents should look for squinting and trouble seeing but may miss it because to the child, it’s all perfectly normal.