Vision is one of the most important factors for the academic performance of children. As explained by Dr. José Visa, a specialist from IMO’s Paediatric Ophthalmology, Strabismus and Neuro-Ophthalmology Department and president of the Spanish Strabismus Society, “as children receive 80-90% of information about their environment through their eyes, poorly corrected visual acuity or abnormal eye movements can cause a significant delay in their literacy development”.
Because of this, it is very important to be aware of certain symptoms such as “recurring headaches, squinting, head tilting or moving closer to objects to see better”, explains Dr Visa, who adds that poor vision in children could also be behind other concealed symptoms that are not usually associated with visual problems, such as “worsening grades, distraction in class or refusal to read”.
As well as parents, teachers, psychologists and instructors being alert to these signs, it is important for children to have regular eye tests from the age of 3-4 (annually until the age of 10 and biannually from the age of 10 to 16) in order to detect any disorders. The start of the new school year is a good time for children to have a thorough eye test as their vision is in the process of development during their first ten years of life.
Children learn to see in infancy
As explained by Dra. Ana Wert, also an IMO specialist, “up until the age of 8 or 9, children learn to see and any disease that goes unnoticed and untreated during this time can become chronic and irreversible, and compromise good eye health in adulthood”. In fact, “late diagnosis is the leading cause of childhood eye diseases remaining uncured”, she says.
According to information supplied by the IMO Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting eye health through education, research and prevention, 13.5% of the paediatric population experiences undiagnosed vision problems. Along with refractive errors, strabismus and eye deviation, it is one of the most common disorders among children and, if not treated properly, can lead to amblyopia or “lazy eye”, caused by the brain suppressing vision in one of the two eyes to avoid seeing double.
Advances in paediatric ophthalmology and strabismus
The surgical management of different types of strabismus and its complications was one of the key themes of the third edition of the WSPOS (World Society of Paediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus), Conference, which took place from 4 to 6 September in Barcelona and addressed the main advances in the treatment of amblyopia, congenital glaucoma and cataracts and retinal diseases.
“There was also discussion of the latest genetic findings in relation to vision disorders and new treatments for retinopathy of prematurity, as well as advances in paediatric ocular oncology”, explains Dr Visa.