EYE PROBLEMS

COMMON EYE PROBLEMS

Several eye conditions can affect kids.

Amblyopia ("lazy eye")

This is poor vision in an eye that may appear to be normal. Two common causes are crossed eyes and a difference in the refractive error between the two eyes. If untreated, amblyopia can cause irreversible visual loss in the affected eye. (By then, the brain's "programming" will ignore signals from that eye.) Amblyopia is best treated during the preschool years.

Strabismus (squints)

This is a misalignment of the eyes; they may turn in, out, up, or down. If the same eye is chronically misaligned, amblyopia may also develop in that eye. With early detection, vision can be restored by patching the properly aligned eye, which forces the misaligned one to work. Surgery or specially designed glasses also may help the eyes to align.

Refractive errors

This means that the front layers of the eye do not focus light accurately on to the retina. So, images appear blurred. Refractive errors also can cause amblyopia. Nearsightedness is the most common refractive error in school-age children; others include farsightedness and astigmatism: Nearsightedness is poor distance vision (also called myopia), which is usually treated with glasses or contacts. Farsightedness is poor near vision (also called hyperopia), which is usually treated with glasses or contacts. Astigmatism is the imperfect curvature of the front surface of the eye, which is usually treated with glasses if it causes blurred vision or discomfort.

Allergic conjunctivitis

This causes an itchy, red and tearing eye and is associated with other allergies like asthma, allergic rhinitis and skin allergies. Allergic conjunctivitis can be treated with cold water compresses and observation if mild, but will require eye drops if symptoms are excessive.

Nasolacrimal Duct obstruction

This causes tearing in an infant. The eye is usually white and spontaneously resolves by one year of age in most infants. A gentle massage of the side of the nose is usually all that is needed as treatment.

Infective Conjunctivitis

Viral or bacterial conjunctivitis is a contagious infection causing a pink, irritated and tearing eye commonly associated with discharge. It is spread via contact and can be observed with only washing the affected eye if mild, while more severe infections require eye drops. Children should be kept away from school for at least 10 days after the initial symptoms start.

Blepharitis (swollen eyelids)

This inflammation in the oily glands of the eyelid usually results in swollen eyelids and excessive crusting of the eyelashes. This could cause tender lids, a foreign body sensation, increased blinking, tearing, pain and difficulty with looking at lights. Blepharitis can be treated with warm compresses and eyelid scrubs using baby shampoo. If an infection is present, antibiotics may be necessary.

Ptosis (droopy eyelids)

This condition is caused by a weakness of a muscle that opens the upper eyelid. When ptosis is mild, it is primarily a cosmetic problem. However, ptosis can interfere with vision. In infancy, it is important that ptosis be eliminated so that vision will develop normally. Correction usually requires eyelid surgery.



LESS COMMON BUT MORE SERIOUS CONDITIONS

Retinopathy of prematurity

A disease that affects the eyes of premature babies, needs regular screening and prompt treatment if present.

Retinoblastoma

This is a rare malignant tumor that usually appears in the first 3 years of life. The affected eye or eyes may have visual loss and a white appearance of the pupil.

Cataract

Infantile cataracts can occur in newborns. A cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens and can cause a permanently lazy eye if not treated early.

Congenital glaucoma

A rare condition that may be inherited. It is the result of incorrect or incomplete development of the eye drainage canals before birth and can be treated with medication and surgery.