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‘Untreated eye conditions in children can trigger serious problems in adulthood’

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Amarachi Okeh

An eye care expert has warned that eye problems left untreated in children can worsen to become more serious health concerns when they grow up.

The eye care specialist, who is also a public health expert, noted that some of the complicated eye-related health conditions suffered in adulthood can be traced to poor attention to managing eye infections in children.

According to the World Health Organisation, while the cause of vision impairment varies across countries, the leading cause in low-income countries is congenital cataract.

The WHO also warned that young children with early onset of severe vision impairment can experience delayed motor, language, emotional, social and cognitive development, with lifelong consequences, adding that vision impairment usually severely impacts the quality of life in adulthood.

Also, according to Optometrists Network, an online eye information platform, up to one in eight children will have an eye infection each year.

The platform, in a recent report, stated that many children contract eye infections in daycare, school, and camp settings, where there are many opportunities for germs to spread.

While noting that the most common eye infections that affect children are viral and bacterial conjunctivitis – both highly contagious – the ON urged parents to be alert to symptoms of eye infection to enable prompt identification and treatment.

It warned that improperly treated eye infections can result in serious complications and cause permanent vision loss.

Speaking with PUNCH Healthwise, an optometrist, Dr. Oluchi Ubani, warned that not treating eye infections in children promptly is very risky, stressing that it often becomes a bigger health concern when they grow up.

Ubani urged parents to pay attention to the eye health of their children and not downplay the severity of any eye issue seen at a tender age.

Ubani said a baby who constantly rubs eyes may be doing so as a reaction to an eye problem that they are not able to articulate at that age.

“When a child is born, the parents should be alert to any abnormality in the eyes.

“A baby frequently rubbing their eyes indicates something is not normal. That means that the eye is itchy or something is disturbing the eye, so the baby is responding that way.

“If you observe any such abnormality, don’t wait, don’t say they will outgrow  it. Rather, visit a professional immediately. You can consult an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. Just visit one and have the eye checked.”

Ubani also mentioned that parents should look out for squinting in their children, while they watch the TV as this indicates that they are struggling to see.

The optometrist also noted that children watching TV from close proximity could equally have a sight challenge, adding that they should be checked by an eye specialist.

Ubani urged parents to ensure regular eye checks for children, stressing that children should be taken for basic eye screening at three years and full eye examination at age six.

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