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Perfect sight is a marvelous thing, and the older we get, the more we value the ability to see up close as well as at a distance — even if it takes multiple pairs of glasses to accomplish this.
August is National Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month. This is a good time to assess our families’ risk for potential eye injuries and diseases and seek preventive measures from these risks. Recent developments soon will broaden these measures to include those for age-related macular degeneration.
Imagine the difficulty we would have had if we had experienced vision problems as a child. Without good vision, a child’s ability to learn about the world and be educated in simple tasks becomes even more complex and problematic. Untreated eye problems can affect learning ability, personality and adjustment in school as well as lead to serious medical problems.
Since many vision problems begin at an early age, it is very important that children receive proper eye care as soon as possible. Vision problems affect one in 20 preschoolers and one in four school-age children.
Some children with eye problems don’t complain or even appear to have symptoms. The following signs, however, should be red flags to alert parents to the possibility of problems:
1. Eyes don’t line up or one eye appears crossed or looks out.
2. Eyelids are red-rimmed, crusted or swollen, or the eyes appear watery or inflamed.
3. The child rubs their eyes a lot, closes or covers one eye or tilts his/her head forward.
4. The child has trouble reading or doing other close-up work or holds objects close to eyes to see them.
5. The child blinks more than usual or seems cranky when doing close-up work
6. Common complaints of the child include “My eyes are itchy, burning or feel scratchy,” “I can’t see very well,” “Everything looks blurry” or “I see double.”
7. Doing close-up work, your child says “I feel dizzy,” “I have a headache” or “I feel sick/nauseous.”
In addition to congenital disorders and the above conditions, accidents play a large part in the loss of sight among children. More than half of all eye injuries occur in people younger than 25.
Of the 100,000 eye injuries that occur annually, 40 percent occur during sports or recreational activities.
Baseball is the No. 1 cause of sports-related injuries in the 5- to 14-year-old age group, and basketball is the most common cause of eye injuries in the 15- to 24-year-old age group.
The most interesting statistic, however, is that 90 percent of all eye injuries could be prevented. To prevent eye injuries, it is important that parents familiarize themselves with potentially dangerous situations. Each year, toys and home playground equipment cause more than 11,000 injuries to young eyes. Parents need to check toys and make certain that children use protective eyewear when participating in sports or potentially hazardous activities.
Treating eye injuries
Never assume that any eye injury is harmless. When in doubt, see a doctor immediately.
• Chemical burns to the eye: Immediately flush the eye with water or any other drinkable liquid for at least 15 minutes. Hold the eye under a faucet or shower, or pour water into the eye using a clean container, keeping the eye open and as wide as possible while flushing. Do not use an eyecup. If a contact lens is in the eye, begin flushing over the lens immediately, even if it washes away the lens. Do not bandage the eye, and seek immediate medical treatment after flushing.
• Specks in the eye: If there is a speck in the eye, do not rub it. Instead, try to let tears wash the speck out — try lifting the upper eyelid outward and down over the lower lid — or use an eyewash. If the speck does not wash out, keep the eye closed, bandage it lightly and see a doctor.
• Blows to the eye: Apply a cold compress without putting pressure on the eye. Crushed ice in a plastic bag can be taped to the forehead to rest gently on the injured eye. If there is pain, reduced vision or discoloration, seek emergency medical care because these symptoms could mean internal eye damage.
• Eye cuts or puncture: Don’t wash out the eye with water or any other liquid if there are cuts or punctures of the eye or eyelid. Don’t try to remove an object stuck in the eye. Cover the eye with a rigid shield but do not apply pressure to the eye itself. See a doctor immediately.
Ratcliffe is a consultant to the Coastal Health District. You can call her at 876-6399.