Eye care important for young children

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October 28, 2014 9:07 AM

October is Optometry Education Month, and Dr. Aleem Bandali of the LloydMall Eye Care said early visits to an optometrist can be beneficial to a child's development. - Christopher W. Brown Photo

Some can look into your eyes and tell a lot about your future, and your potential health problems.

Dr. Aleem Bandali, owner of LloydMall Eye Care, said that early check-ups can be key to a child’s development.

“The biggest issue, optometrists usually see patients starting at six months of age, which can be alarming because people don’t usually know that optometrists can screen for problems in a children’s vision,” said Bandali.

“At six months of age, what we are really looking for is development and that is critical for six months old children to three year olds.
That is a critical time when a child could develop some either refractal abnormalities or something that is visually related.”

Bandali said that optometrists can discover health related problems with the eyes as well at that early age.

“From a parent’s perspective, at an early age the main thing that we can screen for is the health related issues a child might have.” He added they check for things like retinoblastoma, “which is a cancer that affects the eyes.”

Other things that doctors are looking for at during the early ages of a child’s life are, “Eye turns, which is when a child is looking at a TV screen and is aware and one eye is turning out or in relatively to the other eye, that eye at some point will become lazy, or ignored,” he said.

“Over time, the brain will choose a strong eye and it will ignore the lazy eye, and later on in life at 16 or 17 when doctors try and correct that with lenses, doctors may never be able to get that lazy eye to see properly.

“It’s important for children to get checked out early for development sense,” he added.

After the age of three, when children become more verbal, that is when doctors can dive into more specific issues.

“A child will not normally be able to tell you if their vision is normal or not, they are basing it on their own vision,” he said.

Children will often not notice anything is wrong with their vision, until a doctor can properly check them out, Bandali said.

Early warning signs can be key to early detection, he added.

“Behaviour things like squinting can be one of the biggest early detections signs of a problem with children’s vision.”

Other early signs can come in the form of the turning of the child’s head to look out of the side of the eyes, if spatial awareness is off.

“For young kids, between two months and six years old, looking at pictures of their kids, when you see the red eye in a photo that can be normal for some photos, but if one eye is red and the other is white that can be a severe sign that a child must come in immediately,” Bandali said.

For kids, Bandali believes that check-ups should happen every year.
“But again it really depends on those factors of visually and health factors,” he said.

“If a child is developing normally, once a year is perfect, but if we see that eye turn, or the refractal, or one eye isn’t getting enough information that we would need further assessments and more treatments.”

Bandali said that how aggressive the treatment is usually determines how often patients wants to see a doctor.

“It can range from every three months to every six months.”

And while getting a regular check-up isn’t always the top of some minds, optometrists can sometimes diagnose health issues that aren’t about eye care.

“There are quite a few things that we can look at when giving someone an examination,” he said.

“We can notice some seismic problems, like diabetes, or high blood pressure. When you look on the inside of the eye we look at the blood cells and the nerves.”

Bandali said that sometimes optometrists can look into someone’s eyes and without being diagnosed formally, “If there is blood leaking in the back of the eyes, that is a sign of diabetes, and when we refer them out, the blood test will come back with a confirmation of a positive case of diabetes.”

Bandali said that sometimes optometrists can sometimes discover cases of diabetes that have gone undiagnosed for some years.

“But really when I’m looking into someone’s eyes, I’m usually looking into someone’s front surfaces of their eyes,” he said.

“We are looking for anything from high cholesterol,to dry eyes. There are a number of seismic things that we can look for when seeing a patient.”

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