ABU DHABI 12 October 2019: Experts from Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Eye Institute have urged parents to arrange eye examinations for their children.
The theme of World Sight Day this year on October 10 was ‘Vision First!’, stressing the importance of early screening and intervention. Left uncorrected, impaired vision in children impacts quality of life, is associated with lower academic achievement, and can result in permanent visual loss that is not treatable after childhood.
Doctors recommend that all children have an initial eye exam before the age of four. If parents suspect a child has an eye problem, they should be examined whatever their age. This allows causes of preventable blindness to be treated during childhood, when they are most correctable as the visual system is still developing.
“A child’s visual system is not set at birth. It depends upon visual experience and continues to develop until the age of around seven or eight, with the first few years of life being a particularly critical period. At least 4 percent of children have visual impairment that is only treatable during childhood. Detecting visual problems during childhood, when they are most amenable to treatment, can have a tremendously positive impact on the child’s future,” explains Dr. Arif Khan, a pediatric ophthalmologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
While some pediatric eye conditions can be relatively easy for parents to spot, characterized by discoloration, clouding of the eye, or an eye turn, the majority can only be detected with an eye exam, particularly if the condition affects just one eye. There is a clear link between poor vision and lower academic performance in children. While most schools in the UAE provide eye exams for students, doctors are keen to highlight that waiting until a child has started school to correct some problems can be too late.
“On World Sight Day, it’s important that people think about putting vision first. Children are never too young for an eye exam and all children should have eye exam by four years of age and sooner if a problem is suspected. This is the only way to avoid visual impairment from conditions that are not amenable to treatment after childhood,” says Dr. Khan.
Some of the most common eye conditions seen in children in the UAE include amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus (crossed eyes). Amblyopia is often treated without surgery while strabismus may or may not require surgery. Physicians at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi see a number of more serious childhood eye conditions, including cataracts, keratoconus, glaucoma, and retinal dystrophy.