A GUIDELINE TO CHILDREN’S EYE HEALTH

Year 2020 (corona pandemic) has shown us many ups and downs. More or less we adjusted ourselves according to the situation and learned to survive. The worst hit emotionally and physically from this situation are the kids. From not being able to attend school to sitting at home without friends, screen came to their complete rescue. With a sharp drop in physical movement (outdoor activities), and increased screen time due to online classes and pleasure viewing, led to many health related concerns. One organ being way more stressed than others is the Eye. Just like any other part of the body, eyes also need ample rest and care. Eyes continue to grow and develop as a child ages and the eye muscles become stronger. For most of the children, as they grow, they have good eyesight and do not need to wear glasses. However, if a child has some problem and it is not diagnosed at an early age, it may lead to reduced vision in one or both eyes.

Common eye disorders in children

Amblyopia (lazy eyes): It is a kind of poor vision that happens in one eye. It develops when there is a breakdown in how the brain and eye work together. Common cause of this condition is an imbalance in the muscles. It prevents both eyes from working together. Over a period of time the brain relies on the stronger eye and vision in the weaker eye gets worse.

Strabismus (crossed eyes): It is a condition in which both eyes do not line up in the same direction. The eyes are unable to look at the same place at the same time. It causes when the brain receives different visual messages from each eye and ignores signals coming from weaker one. It is one of the most common eye disorders in children, affecting 4% of kids under the age of six year.

Chalazion (sty): Stye is a small, red lump that occurs at the base of the eyelash of your kid, usually on the lower lid. It can cause swelling around the eyelid and can be quite painful. Children can have many styles on their eyelid at one time and can happen in both eyes. This is one of the eye disorders in children caused by an infection of oil glands in the eyelid.

Conjunctivitis: It is commonly known as “pink eyes”. Conjunctivitis is an infection in the outer membrane of your eyeball. It can be caused by allergies or a bacterial or viral infection. It is extremely contagious and can spread by coming in contact with an infected person.

Dry eyes: Some factors that can cause dry eyes in kids are dry weather, smoke, or pollution. Allergies or contact lenses are also responsible for irritation and dryness in eyes. It can affect kids to perform well in school. Burning, itching, constantly blinking are some of the symptoms.

Symptoms for children’s eye diseases

  • Child is constantly rubbing his/her eyes
  • Poor focusing
  • Abnormal movement of eyes (after 6 months of age)
  • Redness of the eyes
  • Tearing of eyes
  • Tilting head and covering one eye
  • Sitting too close to television or keeping book too close while reading
  • Complaining of headaches or eye pain

Essential nutrients to prevent eye disorders in children

Vitamin A: Vitamin A plays a crucial role in vision by maintaining a clear cornea, which is the outer covering of your eye. Rhodopsin, a protein present in eyes that helps to see in low light is component of vitamin A. Orange- coloured fruits and vegetables like carrots, mangoes, apricot, sweet potatoes are high in bête-carotene, a form of vitamin A that helps your eyes to adjust them in darkness and improves night vision. It is key to protect your kid from any children’s eye disease. (How to cook vitamin A food to retain nutrition?)

B vitamins: A 2009 study suggests that daily supplementation of vitamins B6, B9, B12 may help to reduce risk of AMD (degenerative eye disease that affects the vision). Vitamin B6 comes in protein rich foods like beans, potatoes, spinach, and enriched cereal grains. Dark green leafy vegetables, sprouts, broccoli, fresh fruits, peanuts are some sources of vitamin B9. Milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs, fish are high in vitamin B12. (More B vitamin foods)

Vitamin C: It is a powerful antioxidant that protects eyes against damaging free radicals. It produces collagen which is important for eyes. Connective tissues in eyes are maintained by collagen. It holds them together and protects them, which helps in preventing any kind of eye disorders in children. Citrus fruits like oranges, guava, lemon and vegetables like tomatoes are the major contributors of vitamin C. Broccoli, sprouts, and capsicum are some other rich natural sources of vitamin C. (Easiest food source of meeting 100% Vitamin C requirement)

Vitamin E: Vitamin E is an antioxidant which protects certain parts of the eye. It has been known to lower the risk of developing macular degeneration and cataract, two age-related conditions. Including almonds, pistachio and walnuts in the child’s diet can preserve his/her eyesight. Studies also show that eating nuts daily is an effective home remedy to control myopia (a condition in which far objects don’t appear clear). (Some easy food sources of vitamin E)

Zinc: Eye contains high level of zinc. It is also involved in the formation of visual pigments in the retina. Zinc deficiency can result in night blindness. Chick peas, beans, nuts are some food sources of zinc. (How does zinc help in treating mouth ulcers?)

Antioxidants Lutein and Zeaxanthin: It helps to protect eyes from harmful bright light waves like ultraviolet rays in sunlight by absorbing excess light. Studies suggest that high levels of both in eye tissue can give better vision in dim light. These work to protect eyes from free radicals (What are they?). Natural food sources of these two are green or yellow vegetables like spinach, carrot. Non vegetarian sources include egg yolks. (Which nut has these antioxidants?)

Recipe of Spinach Tofu dish- Great for Eyes

  • Spinach (wash, steamed, retain water)
  • 200gm firm tofu (cut small)
  • 2 tbsp Ghee or olive oil or other
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 garlic pieces
  • 1 inch ginger
  • ½ lemon juice
  • salt and pepper

Puree spinach and ginger. Heat oil. Add chopped onion and garlic. Once brownish pink, add tofu pieces. Once bit roasted, add spinach puree. Add salt, pepper seasoning (or curry masala). Cook for 2-3 minutes and take off heat. Add cumin powder (optional). Add lemon juice. Stir and serve.

Fill inside a wrap or tortilla or serve with rice or paratha. A great side dish with rolls/ bun or add on top of pizza.

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