We all see the world differently–and that’s no just a figure of speech. Eye problems can develop at any time, but some are more likely to happen at certain stages in a child’s life. Here are a few common ones:
Baby Blocked Tear Duct
What it is:Your baby makes tears (a natural eye lubricant) all the time and, unless he’s crying, they drain into the nose through the nasolacrimal duct. (There is one on each side of the face.) But for some newborns, the membrane that covers it, and usually opens naturally, remains intact and blocks drainage, explains Craig A. McKeown, M.D., a pediatric ophthalmologist at Miami’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. The blockage doesn’t cause pain, but infection can develop since the fluid isn’t draining properly, he says.
What to look for: Tear-filled or watery eyes; possible white or yellow discharge from the eyes.
How it’s treated:Usually, the blockage opens by itself before a baby’s first birthday. To prevent infection: Wash the area gently with a clean, warm washcloth. Then apply gentle pressure to the place where the eye meets the nose for about a minute–this can help coax the duct open, advises McKeown. If the duct doesn’t open by 12 months, surgery is an option.
What it is:“Strabismus is the general term for any misalignment of the eyes,” says Andy Rosenfarb, N.D., a New Jersey based naturopath. Reasons it could occur include a weak nerve or muscle, or a problem with brain signals to the eye, he says. Strabismus doesn’t necessarily affect eyesight, but it can cause vision to worsen if untreated. It’s usually diagnosed in kids between 18 months and 5 years old, says Rosenfarb.
What to look for: A wondering eye that points in, out, up, or down. It may stay that way all the time, or only happen every once in awhile.
How it’s treated:Depending on the misalignment, a pediatric ophthalmologist may prescribe glasses, eye patching, or, sometimes, surgery, says McKeown. Along with consulting a doctor, Rosenfarb recommends eye exercises and a combination of acupuncture and craniosacral therapy–where a professional gently places pressure on the head to realign the bones in the skull and top of the spine. If you have a family history, schedule eye exams when your child is 6 months and 2 years old, advises McKeown.
Tweens and Teens Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)
What it is:If your child spends too much time staring at a screen, he can develop headaches or neck tension. “Eyes aren’t meant to be fixed on one thing for long periods,” says Rosenfarb. Instead, they should be moving–looking at objects both close-up and far away. CVS symptoms can set in with just two to three hours a day of looking at a screen, he says. (And cell phones, iPads, and TVs count too!)
What to look for: Complaints of headaches, tiredness, eye or neck pain, and blurred vision during or after screen time.
How it’s treated: Try peppermint oil on the back of your child’s neck along with a gentle massage to soothe muscles. Two ways to prevent it: Limit her time in front of a screen and remind her to readjust her gaze every 15 to 20 minutes.
Boost Eye Health–Naturally
Do this exercise: Have your child look at a pencil in front of her, then at a poster across the room. Do this 10 times, breathe in and out, repeat.
Stick with fruits and veggies: Steady blood sugar helps maintain healthy eyes and vision, says Rosenfarb. So to avoid the blood sugar spikes, choose fruits, veggies, and healthy fats like fish. One great option: Chinese goji berries, which have essential vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that promote eye health.