It is not uncommon for children to suffer problems with their eyes so Dr. Gurdeep Singh, Paediatric Ophthalmologist at Mediclinic City Hospital, talks to us about two of the most frequently seen problems.
Corneal abrasions are one of the most common painful eye conditions in children and can occur when something scratches, cuts or brushes up against the cornea. The eyelids, eyelashes and tears usually protect the cornea, although can still be damaged by dust, irritants, bright lights and reactions to certain solutions.
With corneal abrasion, your child may experience defective vision, the feeling of a foreign-body being stuck in the eye, sensitivity to light, watery, stinging or burning in the eye and show as a red or bloodshot eye and perhaps swollen eyelids.
It’s important to attend to any eye conditions quickly, and corneal abrasions usually heal quickly without any long lasting problems, however, in rare cases, they can become infected and lead to a serious condition called a corneal ulcer. If you suspect your child has a corneal abrasion, you should ensure a doctor examines him as soon as possible but don’t try to remove any visible foreign body yourself as this can cause further damage to the cornea. Also avoid rubbing the eye with anything – including a cotton swab or tweezers as this can also make the situation worse. Instead, gently patch the eye and visit the doctor immediately for further treatment.
A doctor can diagnose the condition by examining the eye under a special lamp or by adding a specialist dye to the surface of the eye. They will then be able to detect any abrasions under a lamp as the dye will cause any abrasion to glow bright green under the light so that it is clearly visible. The doctor will also be able to perform other tests to check the eye’s vision and function and may remove any foreign object, prescribe eye drops or ointments and give pain medication if required. A corneal abrasion should heal within a few days - if it doesn’t heal or the symptoms get worse following treatment, it is important to let the doctor know straight away.
Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the membrane that lines the eyelids and covers the white of the eyeball. Symptoms include redness, discharge (crusty eyes – especially in the morning on waking), burning, and sometimes itching and light sensitivity. The infection can occur in one eye or both and can occur at any age and to any gender at any time. It can also be accompanied by fever and flu-like symptoms which can happen either before or after the infection, especially in viral conjunctivitis which is the most common cause. Other causes include allergies, bacterial infections and reactions to eye medications.
Conjunctivitis is highly contagious in the first 10 to 12 days, and it can last for two to three weeks. So, depending upon the severity of the infection, you may need to keep your child away from school or nursery, play areas or swimming pools and so on until it has cleared up completely. Children in nursery situations share their infections by holding hands, playing with the same toys and rubbing their eyes if they are uncomfortable, so spreading the infection is very likely and easy to do.
The single most important precaution you can take to prevent conjunctivitis spreading around the family – parents included, is to follow a strict hand washing regime with soap and water before and after touching the eyes. Any facial contact with others while your child has symptoms can also spread the infection. Don’t let other children use any of your child’s personal articles, such as towels or toys. Pillow cases should be changed daily too, and items like glasses and sunglasses should be kept sanitised and not shared.
The good news is that most of the time conjunctivitis is not serious, just unpleasant, and treatment is usually in the form of daily eye drops. However, if your child is suffering from pain, decreased vision or a strong light sensitivity associated with symptoms of a red eye, this usually indicates a more severe infection and you should take your child to see an ophthalmologist straight away.
To ensure the best health and condition is maintained, children should have their eyes examined by an ophthalmologist every year. To make an appointment with Dr. Gurdeep Singh, Paediatric Ophthalmologist at Mediclinic City Hospital call 04 435 9999. www.cityhospital.com.