On an evening walk with my 11-year-old daughter, we started playing a game of reading car plate numbers from a distance. I was surprised to see that my daughter wasn’t able to read the numbers that I could read and so I quickly booked an appointment for her eye test. On taking her to a pediatric opthamologist, I found out that she had minus power in both the eyes, also known as myopia. While I was glad that the random car plate game led to the incidental diagnosis of her refractive error, it also made me curious to know what may have caused it.
To break things down, there are primarily three common eye issues in kids. When a child faces problems in seeing objects that are far, it is called myopia, which gives a negative power, when they find it tough to see things that are near, it will give a positive number called hypermetropia. There is another refractive issue called the cylindrical error.

On speaking to Dr Manisha Acharya, Head, Cornea, Dr Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital, New Delhi, I understood that myopia usually starts at around 8 - 10 years but can also come much earlier. She recommends that every child should get their first refractive test at the age of 2 so early eye issues can be ruled out.
While getting a number is usually genetic but there are risk factors.

Some early signs of eye issues that can help parents to identify an eye problem is when the child complains of not being able to see clearly from the blackboard. Also, if they are squeezing their eyes too much while watching the screen, this also hints at an underlying eye issue. “Go for a pediatric ophthalmologist as they specialize in understanding which refractive error to give to which child in the growing stage. It will help in giving a better number to the child.” An optician should only be used for screening children, but if their tests show an error, take them to a doctor for thorough evaluation.

Among the many interesting facts that Dr Acharya shared about children’s eye health, one that caught my attention was her emphasis on windows in the house and also on children spending time outdoors. “It’s very important to have windows in the house so the child is seeing things that are 6 meters beyond. This leads to the better development of the normal structure of the eyes.” Outdoor exposure was limited in the past two years where children were glued to screens, which led to poor eyesight in many cases.

The doctor also suggests that instead of giving your child a mobile phone, it is better to allow them to watch TV for sometime. Doing things on a smaller screen is not good for eyes as they will never put the phone at the right distance, and will not have the right posture.

Last but not the least, once your child is diagnosed with a refractive error, encourage them to use their glasses regularly.


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