Common Causes of Vision Loss in Children

Common Causes of Vision Loss in Children

 

By Dr Ogagifo M. Akpodemrae

Infantile or childhood vision loss is the loss of vision in children between the ages of one month and 15 years (adolescents). The causes may vary from traumatic injuries, hereditary conditions, foetal maldevelopment, and parental negligence, to the mother’s social life during pregnancy.

Traumatic Injuries

Children may sustain traumatic injury to the eye(s) during play, accidental injuries from adults resulting from punishments for wrongdoing, falling down the stairs and hitting the head around the vision processing centre of the brain. In most cases, the aftermath care for the child after sustaining ocular injuries is the determinant factor of the ocular health status of the child.

Hereditary

Many eye conditions are inherited by the offspring of parents and thus we have little to no control of the manifestation of these conditions in our children. Conditions such as myopia, glaucoma, congenital cataracts, etc can be passed from parents to offspring. Therefore, parents with inheritable eye conditions should be intentional in taking their children to the eye clinic for comprehensive eye examination and ensuring appropriate management of such conditions the moment they are suspected or diagnosed.

Foetal Maldevelopment

Some conditions may arise during intrauterine development of the foetus and premature birth. These may result in incomplete development of a part of the tissue of the eye or a complete absence of a tissue or component of the eye. This termed coloboma. Coloboma may occur in the iris, fundus and other parts of the eye. There may be incomplete development of vital areas such as the fovea which can also result in vision or eye defects at birth. Prematurity can lead to the development of retinitis of prematurity, therefore children with birth defects should be taken for eye and vision examinations to prevent vision loss.

Ocular Defects from System Conditions

Conditions such as sickle cell anaemia and albinism can give rise to eye and vision defects in children. These two conditions can cause defects ranging from poor vision to total lost vision in one or both eyes.

Parental Negligence

Many childhood vision loss can attributed to parental negligence or nonchalance towards the child. Many children are moving with avoidable/preventable vision impairment of what the parents want and not what is good for the child. Many parents in sub-Saharan Africa believe is a bad omen for a child to start using corrective lenses at a very young age. As a result of this misconception, many children are visually impaired from uncorrected refractive errors such as high myopia and astigmatism.

Mother’s Health and Social Life During pregnancy

Some eye conditions can result from mother’s general health status and social life during pregnancy. Social activities such as drug abuse and heavy drinking, and health conditions such as sexually transmitted diseases can cause eye defect at birth which can lead to vision loss if not properly handled.

Recommendation

  • Parents should be very attentive and observant of their children’s behaviours in order to detect minute ocular changes.
  • Whenever you detect any form of abnormal ocular appearance in your child endeavour to take the child to an eye clinic for a comprehensive eye and vision examination
  • Parents should follow through with every doctor’s recommendations for the resolution of the child’s ocular anomalies.
  • Parents should take their children for the first eye examination by the optometrist at the age of six months, then at age two, and every 2 years thereafter.
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