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Eye tests for kids in Dubai

How to treat common eye complains without causing too many tears

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Healthy eyes and vision are an essential part of a child’s development process. But while early detection means that most common eye problems can be treated fairly easily, for parents, diagnosing any issues, particularly with young children, isn’t always an easy task, explains Dr Clare Roberts, Consultant Paediatric Ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital in Dubai. ‘Young children can’t tell you that there is something wrong, either because they can’t communicate it to you, or they don’t realise that everybody else can see better than they can,’ she says. So what should we be looking out for, asks Time Out Kids, and when is it time to call in the experts?

What signs can we look out for to determine if a child has a problem with his sight?
New babies should look at their parents’ faces by six to eight weeks and should be able to hold their eyes straight, without wobbling by four months. For older babies, rubbing their eyes constantly, shying away from bright lights or excessive fear of the dark can all be signs of sight problems. For school aged children, a reluctance to settle down for close work (such as reading, writing or drawing) may indicate convergence problems (related to eye muscle balance) or difficulty in focusing due to long sight, while apparent inattention to the black board may be due to short sight.

What age should a child’s sight be tested?
When they’re newborn, every child has their eyes looked at by the paediatrician. This is to check the ‘red reflex’ – that’s the red eye that you get in a flash photograph. An abnormal result could indicate an urgent condition such as congenital cataract, which then needs to be assessed by a paediatric ophthalmologist.

After the initial screening, the next eye examination depends on family history and the general health and development of your child. For children with no apparent eye problems or family history, their first eye test should be at around four years old. However, if a relative has a serious, inheritable eye condition, or the child is premature or has general developmental delay, for example, they should be monitored by a specialist from a much earlier age.

What are common eye complaints in children?
The most common is a blocked tear duct. About 10 per cent of babies are born with one or both tear ducts blocked and this leads to a watery and sticky eye. In more than 90 per cent of cases this clears spontaneously without the need for intervention. Lazy eye, or amblyopia, is a very treatable cause of poor vision in children if it is picked up early, but after the age of eight it is very difficult to improve. Most often, it’s caused by a difference in prescriptions for each eye.

How do I prevent my child from contracting conjunctivitis?
Infections are quite common but not particularly serious. Conjunctivitis is probably the most common overall, if it’s caused by bacteria it can be settled by antibiotic drops in probably four or five days. You just have to be extra aware of your hygiene. The main way to avoid conjunctivitis is plenty of hand washing and not sharing towels with an affected person.

What if a child gets something in his eye?
Try to get the child to keep the eye closed for a moment – they will produce lots of tears which can help wash it out. Wash your hands then pull the bottom lid down a little and ask your child to look up. If the foreign body is on the lid or the white of the eye you should be able to take it out with your finger without any pain for the child. If it is stuck on the cornea – the coloured part of the eye – and won’t wash off with tears then take them to the hospital because they will need local anaesthetic drops in order to get it off. If nothing at all is visible but it feels as if there is something there, it is probably stuck under the top lid – again take them to the hospital where someone can look under the top lid to get it out.

What about treating more serious eye injuries?
If a chemical such as detergent, perfume or bleach is splashed in the eye then it should be immediately irrigated with large amounts of clean water then checked out at the hospital. Start washing the eye out straight away, don’t wait until you get to the hospital. Twenty minutes irrigating the eye of a wriggling child can be difficult, but it’s very worth it to reduce the risk of permanent damage. Bring the bottle or label with you to the hospital too. If the eye has been penetrated, don’t allow them to rub it, and get them to the hospital as quickly as you can as the eye may need emergency surgery.

Any tips on giving eye drops or ointment to an unwilling patient?
In general, it’s going to be a two-person job. One of you should have the child sitting on their lap with their arms and legs under control – the other should put the drops in. Tip the child’s head back, use one finger to gently pull down the lower lid to make a pocket, then administer the drop there. Let go of the lid so they can blink which will disperse the drop across the entire eye. If your child is beyond cooperating, wait until they have fallen asleep and it should be a lot easier then.
Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai, Healthcare City (04 429 7888; www.moorfields.ae)

Time Out Dubai,

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