Astigmatism is a refractive error caused by irregularities in the shape of the cornea. It happens when the eye fails to focus the light equally on the retina causing blurred or distorted vision. An astigmatism can be present at the time of birth, or can develop gradually over a lifetime. Most astigmatisms can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. Surgery is less common due to the associated risks.
There are three main kinds of astigmatisms:
As the name suggests this astigmatism occurs when it’s combined with near-sightedness. The two curves are focused in front of the retina.
Hyperopic astigmatism occurs when astigmatism is combined with far-sightedness and the two curves are focused behind the retina.
Mixed astigmatism occurs when the cornea produces both myopia and hyperopia.
Around 1 in 50 children have amblyopia. Also known as a lazy eye, one eye is weaker than the other, so a child relies more on their good eye. It may be diagnosed at a development screening or during an eye test by the age of four. Glasses can be used to correct the weaker eye but if it doesn’t respond, a patch may need to be worn over the good eye to force the weak eye to work harder.
A squint is when the eyes point in different directions causing blurred vision, double vision and may lead to a lazy eye. Around 1 in 20 children have a squint, usually occurring before the age of five. Most of the time this is picked up in routine eye checks.
Colour blindness is a condition that makes it hard to pick out the red, yellow and green parts of the spectrum. It can be difficult to diagnose in children under the age of four but by this age a parent or teacher may notice a child struggling to name or separate items by colour. Colour blindness can be genetic or caused by a brain injury, eye diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, or a vitamin A deficiency. One in 20 males are impacted and fewer numbers of females.
After the eye test, the optometrist will advise you if your child needs glasses. Depending on the optometrist you visit, your child may be fitted for glasses at the same retail location or you may need to take a prescription to an optician who will supply the glasses or contact lenses.
For eye injuries or optical medical conditions an optometrist may refer your child to an ophthalmologist.
Tips for Protecting Your Child’s Eyesight
As parents there are a few things you can do to ensure your child’s eyes stay healthy.
Limit screen time as it can cause dry eyes, eye strain and blurred vision
Encourage your child to wear a hat and sunglasses when in harsh sunlight
Protect your child’s eyes from potential injuries from paint, chemicals and sharp objects
Ask your child to read to you throughout their primary school years
Look out for signs and symptoms of eye problems
Take your child to an optometrist for an eye check every two years or sooner if you have concerns.
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