Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi Recommends Parents Get Their Children’s Eyes Checked to Better School Performance and Avoid Preventable Blindness Only Treatable During Childhood
Ahead of World Sight Day on October 10, experts from Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s pioneering Eye Institute are urging parents to arrange eye examinations for their children.
The theme of World Sight Day this year is ‘Vision First!’, stressing the importance of early screening and intervention. Left uncorrected, impaired vision in children impacts quality of life, is associated with lower academic achievement, and can result in permanent visual loss that is not treatable after childhood.
Doctors recommend that all children have an initial eye exam before the age of four. If parents suspect a child has an eye problem, they should be examined whatever their age. This allows causes of preventable blindness to be treated during childhood, when they are most correctable as the visual system is still developing.
“A child’s visual system is not set at birth. It depends upon visual experience and continues to develop until the age of around seven or eight, with the first few years of life being a particularly critical period. At least 4 percent of children have visual impairment that is only treatable during childhood. Detecting childhood visual problems during childhood, when they are most amenable to treatment, can have a tremendously positive impact on the child’s future,” explains Dr. Arif Khan, a pediatric ophthalmologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
While some pediatric eye conditions can be relatively easy for parents to spot, characterized by discoloration, clouding of the eye, or an eye turn, the majority can only be detected with an eye exam, particularly if the condition affects just one eye. There is a clear link between poor vision and lower academic performance in children. While most schools in the UAE provide eye exams for students, doctors are keen to highlight that waiting until a child has started school to correct some problems can be too late.
“As we approach World Sight Day, it’s important that people think about putting vision first. Children are never too young for an eye exam and all children should have eye exam by four years of age and sooner if a problem is suspected. This is the only way to avoid visual impairment from conditions that are not amenable to treatment after childhood,” says Dr. Khan.
Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Eye Institute offers specialized examinations and appropriate treatments for children suspected of having vision problems. Dr. Khan recently saw a child referred for a second opinion. The child was suffering from frequent headaches and blurred vision and had been diagnosed with neurological disease as the cause. A specialized eye examination at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi revealed that the source of his symptoms was an undiagnosed need for glasses. After receiving the proper prescription glasses, the headaches stopped, his vision was restored, and permanent visual impairment was prevented.
Some of the most common eye conditions seen in children in the UAE include amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus (crossed eyes). Amblyopia is often treated without surgery while strabismus may or may not require surgery. Physicians at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi see a number of more serious childhood eye conditions, including cataracts, keratoconus, glaucoma, and retinal dystrophy.
Depending on the situation, treatments range from glasses or temporary eye patching to surgery. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Eye Institute has performed successful eye surgery on children as young as one month of age.
To book an appointment at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Eye Institute, visit www.clevelandclinicabudhabi.ae or call 800 CCAD (2223).