Common eye problems in children
Amblyopia (“lazy eye”)
This is poor vision in an eye that may appear to be structurally normal. Two common causes are refractive errors and squints. If untreated, amblyopia can cause irreversible visual reduction in the affected eye. The earlier the amblyopia is detected and treated, the better the visual outcome will be.
This is a misalignment of the eyes, where both eyes don’t focus on the same thing. If the same eye is constantly misaligned, amblyopia could result. Squints can be treated with glasses, exercises or surgeries.
This means that the front layers of the eye do not focus light accurately on to the retina, resulting in a blurred image and can cause amblyopia. These focusing errors are usually treated with glasses, contact lenses and later by laser correction.
Is the most common refractive error in school-age children causing poor distance vision.
Is poor near vision.
Is the imperfect curvature of the front surface of the eye causing both, blurred distance and near vision.
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 by a blocked tear duct. 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.
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 (infected lid margins)
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)
A lowered position of the upper lid. When ptosis is mild, it is primarily a cosmetic problem. However, a droopy upper lid can obstruct vision getting into the eye and can result in a lazy eye, in a young child. In such cases a surgery may be required to correct the lid position.
Less Common but More Serious Conditions
Retinopathy of Prematurity
A disease that affects the eyes of premature babies, and which needs regular screening and prompt treatment, if present.
This is a rare malignant tumor that usually appears in the first 3 years of life. The affected eye may have visual loss and a white appearance of the pupil.
Is the clouding of the eye’s lens and can cause a permanently lazy eye if not treated early in a young child.
It is the result of the incomplete development of the eye’s drainage mechanism, resulting in raised intraocular pressure. This can be treated with medication and surgery.