Most of us probably take our sight for granted. We may not think we need to pay attention to or take care of our eyes.
But if we want to have good vision for a lifetime, we need to pay plenty of attention to our eyes and their health. To be sure that you are doing everything you can to help your child's vision, here are some things to "keep an eye on."
Babies should have their eyes checked in the newborn period, and again between ages 6 months and a year. Your pediatrician can do the simple exam. Children should get a more formal vision test starting between 3 and 4 years of age (as soon as they can cooperate), and regularly during school years. Don't shrug it off if your child ever complains of trouble seeing. Get it checked out right away!
The UV radiation in the sun doesn't just put us at risk for skin cancer; it can also cause damage to the eyes. In fact, Prevent Blindness America has declared May UV Awareness Month.
Too much UV light can increase the risk of cataracts, macular degeneration and melanoma of the eye (uveal cancer). The damage adds up, so it's really important to start early to protect your child's eyesight. So, after slathering on the sunscreen, reach for the sunglasses.
Here are some tips from Prevent Blindness America for choosing the best sunglasses for your child:
Eye injuries can be devastating. To help prevent them:
Foods that have nutrients that can strengthen the eyes and decrease the risk of macular degeneration include:
All of these foods are healthy for you generally, which brings up another point about eating for eye health: Maintain a healthy weight. When your weight is healthy, you're less likely to get diabetes, which can cause a serious eye problem (diabetic retinopathy). So there's another reason to eat your fruits and vegetables, and exercise!
The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests that you call your doctor if your child has any of the following:
Claire McCarthy, M.D., is an assistant professor in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, an attending physician at Children's Hospital of Boston, and medical director of the Martha Eliot Health Center, a neighborhood health service of Children's Hospital. She is a senior medical editor for Harvard Health Publications.