Monday, June 13, 2011

Childhood vision disorders lead to adult problems

A 2011 study published in the journal, Pediatrics, found that in addition to refractive errors that can be corrected with glasses such as myopia and astigmatism, ocular disorders like strabismus (eye-turn, cross eyes) and amblyopia (lazy eye) that occur in infants, toddlers, and children may present lifelong problems for the child. Strabismus and amblyopia require more intense treatment such as vision therapy or surgery.

Children who become adults with these conditions must adapt and compensate for them. Moreover, vision problems that were present in childhood may continue to plague the patient into adulthood, affecting overall health, self-perception, educational attainment, job choices, and a number of other social factors.

Basically, people with these disorders find it very difficult to do things that people with healthy vision take for granted, like effortlessly understanding visual learning. The fact that 80% of classroom learning happens through our visual system means a child with lazy eye, for example, is at a significant disadvantage in school.

The study confirms what we already know about vision disorders and quality of life. A person's life can be needlessly limited if a treatable vision disorder is ignored. Amblyopia is rarely evident to parents or teachers and can only be diagnosed during an eye exam. Even the child will not know that she is not seeing as well as others. That is why all children should have an annual eye exam. In British Columbia the provincial health plan covers visits to an optometrist up to the age of 18 so there is really no reason why a child needs to have their potential needlessly limited.

In our society there is no reason for people to grow up with strabismus or amblyopia. Yet, tragically, it is still too frequent.