Somewhere in the world, a child goes blind every minute of every day. In many cases this could have been prevented. There are an estimated 1.4 million blind children in the world.
In South Africa, there are an estimated 6 500 blind children. And, as in the rest of the world, their blindness could often have been prevented.
What is important in the prevention of visual impairment in children?
- Advise new mothers to have their children immunised, especially against measles.
- Advise mothers about a balanced diet.
- Keep children’s faces clean and promote basic cleanliness.
- No sticks, wires, stones, BB guns, or fireworks.
- No harmful traditional eye medicines.
- If the mother or caregiver is worried about the vision of a child, make sure that the child is referred to an optometrist and/or ophthamologist for a visual examination.
What signs and symptoms should the mother, teacher or adults be aware of?
When the child:
- Complains of frequent headaches.
- Is very sensitive to light.
- Blinks excessively.
- Rubs his/her eyes continuously.
- Walks into or misses objects.
- Squints up the eyes to see.
- Sits very close to the TV.
- Writes with his/her head in the book.
- Reads letters up close.
- Misreads a sentence or cannot concentrate on reading material
- Copies down incorrectly from the board.
What should I do if I think that my child has an eye problem?
If you think your child may have an eye problem, you should take him/her for a vision test and an eye examination. Ask your primary care clinic nurse or your general practitioner to refer your child for this examination.
Remember: permanent damage and loss of vision can often be prevented if the condition is diagnosed and treated early.
source: South African National Council for the Blind