blindness among children

Worldwide, a person goes blind every 5 seconds and a child goes blind every minute, and the children most at risk are those 5 years old and below. 

An estimated 1.4 million children are blind worldwide and millions more are visually impaired.

In developing countries, like the Philippines, 60% of children will die within one year of becoming blind and the remainder will, on average, spend 40 years without sight. 90% of blind children receive no schooling and the majority will not grow up to achieve their full potential. 
 
Many of the common causes of blindness are readily treated or prevented: an incredible 75% of blindness is avoidable. In children, vigilance and early intervention against blinding conditions is crucial. 
 
Other important causes of avoidable blindness in children are measles, ophthalmia neonatorum, cataract, glaucoma, and retinopathy of prematurity. Uncorrected refractive errors, which are easily diagnosed and can be inexpensively corrected with spectacles are the most important cause of vision impairment in school-age children.

Without good vision, a child's ability to learn about the world becomes more difficult. Vision problems affect 1 in 20 preschoolers and 1 in 4 school-age children. Since many vision problems begin at an early age, it is very important that children receive proper eye care. Untreated eye problems can worsen and lead to other serious problems as well as affect learning ability, personality, and adjustment in school.
 
Common eye problems in children

Amblyopia   
Amblyopia, also known as "lazy eye", is reduced vision in an eye that has not received adequate use during early childhood.  Most often it results from either a misalignment of a child's eyes, such as crossed eyes, or a difference in image quality between the two eyes (one eye focusing better than the other.)  In both cases, one eye becomes stronger, suppressing the image of the other eye. If this condition persists, the weaker eye may become useless.  If not treated early enough, an amblyopic eye may never develop good vision and may even become functionally blind. 

It is estimated that 2-3% of the general population suffers from this form of visual impairment. 

Strabismus   
Strabismus is a deviation of the eyes. The term is used to describe eyes that are not straight or properly aligned.  The misalignment results from the failure of the eye muscles to work together. One eye, or sometimes both, may turn in (crossed eyes), turn out (wall eyes), turn up or turn down. Sometimes more than one of the 'turns' are present.  The deviation may be constant or it may come and go. In young children strabismus may vary not only from day-to-day, but during the course of a day. 

Strabismus may be present at birth, it may become apparent at a later age or it may appear at any time in life as a result of illness or accident. 

Approximately 2% of the nation's children have strabismus. Half of them are born with the condition.  It is critical that this condition be diagnosed and corrected at an early age since children with uncorrected strabismus may go on to develop amblyopia. 

Color Blindness
The correct name for color blindness is color vision deficiency, a term used to describe a number of different problems people have with color vision. These problems may range from a slight difficulty in telling different shades of a color apart to not being able to identify any color.

It is estimated that 8% of males and less than 1% of females have color vision problems. Most color vision problems are hereditary and already present at birth. Another cause for color vision deficiency is aging. The eye's clear lens can darken and yellow over time, which can cause older adults to have problems seeing dark colors. Certain medications or eye diseases can affect color vision.
 
Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP)

ROP is becoming one of the leading causes of blindness in the Philippines. 

It occurs only in premature babies or at a low birth weight. 

Retinal blood vessels develop at the back of the eye and grow outward to cover the area of the retina. When a child is born too early, this process doesn't have time to finish. An eye doctor (ophthalmologist) should closely monitor infants who are at risk by carefully examining the eyes. 

A baby is at risk if it is born before the end of the 29th week of pregnancy, or if the baby weighs less than 1,200 grams at birth. 

Babies who are born before the 35th week of pregnancy or who have a birth weight less than 1,500 grams also may need an eye examination if they have had other complications from their premature birth. 

There may be no visible symptoms of ROP in an infant. Only a trained ophthalmologist using a special instrument will be able to detect the presence of ROP. 

Early detection is crucial in treating ROP. The disease can advance very quickly and delayed treatment often reduces the chance for success. 

In more advanced stages, the retina can become detached, causing blindness. 

IT IS VERY CRUCIAL THAT ALL MOTHERS MUST SUBMIT THEIR NEWBORN BABIES FOR SCREENING
 
Myopia (Nearsightedness)
In myopia, the eyeball is too long for the normal focusing power of the eye. As a result, images of distant objects appear blurred. 

Hyperopia (Farsightedness)
The eyeball is too short for the normal focusing power of the eye. In children, the lens in the eye accommodates for this error and provides clear vision for distance and usually near viewing, but with considerable effort that often causes fatigue and sometimes crossed eyes (strabismus). 

Astigmatism
Results primarily from an irregular shape of the front surface of the cornea, the transparent "window" at the front of the eye. Persons with astigmatism typically see vertical lines more clearly than horizontal ones, and sometimes the reverse.

It is possible for your child to have a serious vision problem and not know it. 

  Vision problems that are left undetected and untreated may lead to 
  vision loss and in some cases, blindness. Early detection is the key to minimizing vision loss.