Eagle eye

Specialist opthalmologist Dr Shucri Shawaf warns parents: when it comes to vision, a child won’t always complain

Eagle eye

Kids’ vision centre in the brain only reaches full maturity at the age of seven. The brain needs to receive equal, clear images from both eyes to complete its normal development, and that’s why it’s important to ensure that there are no vision defects present at a young age, something which may be tricky to detect.

“Kids with vision problems wouldn’t know it, since they’ve never experienced normal vision, so they won’t complain,” says Dr Shucri Shawaf, specialist ophthalmologist at Mediclinic Welcare Hospital. “This highlights the importance of a routine eye exam, which can also detect lazy eyes and other eye diseases and abnormalities.”

Doctors recommend an eye exam at the age of three, with the next one traditionally taking place at the age of five, even if there are no visible problems or doubts over the child’s vision. However, there are often some signs which can’t be ignored.

“Growth problems, frequent eye rubbing, excessive blinking, failure to maintain eye contact and poor concentration are all signs that something may be wrong and that an exam is needed,” adds Dr Shucri.

Vision problems will affect a child’s ability to lead a normal life, often crippling them to a point where immediate intervention is needed. Kids need normal vision to take part in many activities, including sports, especially ones which require sharp vision such as cricket, tennis and golf – and doctors say glasses are still the answer.

“No new procedures have been invented for kids. Glasses are efficient and very safe. The refractive power of the eyes usually changes as the child is growing up and doesn’t stabilise until around the age of 17,” adds Shucri. “Therefore, refractive or vision correction surgery can’t be approved before the age of 18.”

If you’re looking to protect your child’s vision, make sure they spend time outdoors, experts say. “Studies have shown that spending less time outdoors can worsen short-sightedness,” explains Dr Shucri.

According to the doctor, a routine eye exam is the answer to every parent’s question: “is my child’s vision normal and what can I do to protect it?”

Doctors urge parents to recognise that glasses aren’t the enemy, and can prove to be a child’s best friend, enabling them to lead a happy, fulfilled lifestyle.

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