Parents in UAE urged to check kids' eyes to avoid preventable blindness
Abu Dhabi - Medics recommend that all children have an initial eye exam before the age of four.
It is important to make sure children's eyes are checked for better school performance and to avoid preventable blindness that can only be treated during childhood, Abu Dhabi parents have been told.
On the occasion of World Sight Day (October 10), experts from the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi's pioneering Eye Institute urged parents to arrange eye examinations for their children. Left uncorrected, impaired vision in children impacts quality of life, including lower academic achievement, and can result in permanent visual loss that is not treatable after childhood, an expert said as part of the 'Vision First!' programme.
The medics 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 is. This allows causes of preventable blindness to be treated during childhood.
Dr Arif Khan, a paediatric ophthalmologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, has explained that 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," he said. "At least four per cent 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."
While some paediatric eye conditions can be relatively easy for parents to spot, 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.
"It's important that people think about putting vision first. Children are never too young for an eye exam," said Dr Khan.
He said that he recently saw a child referred for a second opinion. The child was suffering from frequent headaches and blurred vision and had been diagnosed with neurological disease as the cause. A specialised eye examination revealed that the source of his symptoms was an undiagnosed need for glasses. After receiving the proper prescription glasses, the headaches stopped.