New Education about Eye Care for Children

31 Jan

Sharon Kleyne, host of the Sharon Kleyne Hour Power of Water syndicated radio talk show, recently interviewed Marguerite McDonald, MD about pediatric eye care and what every parent should know about preventing low vision and blindness in children.

Sharon noted that according to the World Health Organization, there are 1.4 million blind children in the world, and many more with low vision. Three-fourths of blind children live in the poorest regions of Africa and Asia, where 80% of blindness is preventable or correctable.

Major causes of childhood blindness in wealthy countries include genetic disorders, and lesions of the optic nerve and higher vision centers. In poor countries, blindness may be caused by measles (preventable), Vitamin A deficiency (preventable), harmful folk remedies (preventable), cataracts (curable), retinopathy of prematurity (curable), glaucoma (treatable), retinoblastoma (the eye usually can’t be saved but the life can) and infections such as conjunctivitis (curable). Causes of low vision include amblyopia (curable), strobismus (curable), nearsightedness (correctable) and developmental problems.

Sharon Kleyne, Marguerite McDonald and the World Health Organization agree that education is the key to preventing low vision and blindness in children. Frequent eye exams and the availability of medical care are most effective when parents are educated about the need for eye screenings and exams, and about what to look for in a child’s visual development.

Dr. McDonald believes that eyes are the most important organ in relating to the outside world. And yet there is much less education available on eye care than with most other health areas. Sharon Kleyne agreed. According to studies by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, sponsor of the “EyeSmart” campaign, Americans know virtually nothing about eye care.

Marguerite McDonald noted that the better hospitals routinely test infant vision. If there are no problems, they probably won’t mention it. All babies should have a pediatric eye exam because with conditions such as lazy eye, pediatric cataract (present in one birth in 50) or glaucoma, the earlier they are caught, the easier they are to correct. These conditions all cause the eye to send incorrect messages to the brain. When the brain begins ignoring messages from the bad eye, correction becomes far more difficult

Sharon asked about eye and brain communication. According to Dr. McDonald, the retina is actually part of the brain. Eye-to-brain pathways begin developing immediately after birth and it is critical that the baby’s eyes send correct messages. She notes that vision is, in large part, learned behavior (the ability to interpret what you see and to fill in the blanks), and poor vision in childhood can lead to learning and behavior problems.

Dr. McDonald notes that most schools have vision screening programs and are able to detect poor vision because they need only a simple eye chart. Diseases such as dry eye or glaucoma are much harder to detect and a doctor is required. However, an educated and observant parent is always the first line of defense.

© 2012 Bio-Logic Aqua Research

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