Vision Loss Prevention
It is not possible to prevent all cases of vision loss in infants. However, new therapies are available that can help preserve vision – such as early treatment of the retinopathy of prematurity, surgery for infantile cataracts and laser and chemotherapy regimens for retinoblastoma.
As your child grows into a toddler and then becomes ready for school, it is important to have regular visual screenings and comprehensive eye exams to diagnose any problems and treat them early. Children considered being at risk for the development of eye and vision problems may need additional testing or more frequent re-evaluation. The American Public Health Association (APHA) stresses the importance of early and regular eye examinations. It recommends that these exams be performed at six months, two years, and four years. But follow-through is equally important, says the APHA. “Improving the access to eye care for children should be as important as are our current childhood vaccination programs.”
Another key element in the prevention of vision loss in children concerning trauma. Whereas eye trauma in young children frequently happens during play, older children and adolescents tend to suffer eye injuries in sports-related activities. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, eye trauma is four times more likely in boys than in girls. Serious eye trauma in children is most likely to happen among children between the ages of 11 and 15. Martial arts and sports that use balls, sticks, and pucks are those in which eye injuries are most likely to occur. High-impact blunt trauma during these sports may result in retinal detachment, internal bleeding, cataracts, and glaucoma. ANSI protective eyewear or face guards are recommended for certain high risk sports (racquetball, hockey, paintball). Children with visual impairment in one eye may be recommended to wear protective glasses at all times to protect the better seeing eye. It is worthwhile to alert your child to the possibility of eye injuries and then make sure that he or she receives prompt medical attention if an injury does occur.
Other sources of eye injury can be found closer to home or, actually, in the home – in the form of corrosive and caustic chemicals. Drain and oven cleaners, lye, detergents and acids are just some of the chemicals that can inflict serious damage if splashed near the eye. Because chemical burns can scar the cornea and conjunctival tissue covering the white of the eye, all of these substances should be kept well out of the reach of toddlers and young children. If a child does come into contact with one of these chemicals and the eyes are exposed, prompt and copious irrigation with water should be started and continued for at least 15 minutes, followed by a visit to the nearest hospital emergency room.
Have questions about vision loss?
Visit the My Child Without Limits support community and talk to parents, caregivers, and professionals about their experiences with vision loss.
Want to learn more about vision loss?
American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus
FamilyConnect (For Parents of Children with Visual Impairments)
Prevent Blindness America
The Association for Retinopathy of Prematurity and Related Diseases