8 essential tips from the eye doctor for your child

eye care, kids Reduce your child’s screen time. (Source: Dreamstime)

Some regular exercises and Ayurveda tips may help your child’s problems with vision, recommends the expert.

By Hima Bindu

Data from the National Program for Control of Blindness from recent years has backed fears that increased screen time among children may be causing more permanent damage to eyesight in children than we assumed. In 2016, there were about 100,000 children with refractive errors, a disorder of blurred vision due to faulty bending of light on the eye lens. Reports suggest a leap in the number of cataract, glaucoma and intra-ocular trauma or eye injuries, the main causes of premature onset of blindness. To add to it is an observation that exposure to UV radiations in India is higher, which has potentially led to increased incidents of early cataracts.

Unrestrained use of gadgets with LED and resulting radiations are severely damaging the mitochondria or the operational centre of the retinal cells in children. Studies also suggest the increase in cases of myopia or nearsightedness is directly related to lifestyle triggers like increased screen time and overexposure to harmful radiation from gadgets.

Today, parents are looking at alternative medicine to complement conservative procedures like cataract surgeries, oral medications and glass prescriptions to manage refractive errors. For example, while treating cataract, a popular treatment is intra ocular lens implantation, where a natural contractile lens is removed and replaced with a glass lens. Experts are finding out that removal of the natural lens, which is contractile and works in co-ordination with the retina, weakens the retina. Many people are moving to treatments that strengthen eye muscles and improve retinal function. When a child is diagnosed with a compromised vision, he is prescribed glasses. But prescription glasses do not solve the entire problem. They simply perpetuate it and at best manage the eye problem. “With a deeper understanding of why it occurs, we learn that when the glasses are prescribed, it has a fixed number but is used for both near, far as well as sideways vision by the child. So the eye muscle weakens further as the eye gets strained even more. Hence, the prescription number increases up to the age of 21,” says Dr. Padmalochan Jena, who heads the eye care research center at Sri Sri Tattva Panchakarma, Bangalore.

Six-year-old Sanjay (name changed) was diagnosed with optic neuritis (damaged optic nerve that connects eye and brain.) At the time of diagnosis, he had near zero vision initially. Steroids did not help. In fact they caused severe side effects and unlike a normal six-year-old, he was plagued by recurring fever and sluggishness. His parents decided to treat the problem from its root instead of just treating the symptoms. Sanjay underwent a therapy called Netrajyoti, a unique blend of Ayurveda and modern techniques where symbiotic use of eye exercises with natural ocular therapies and internal medicines aid in strengthening of eye muscles, optimises retinal function and corrects refractive errors. These synergistic therapies can heal different eyesight complications like myopia, hypermetropia, presbyopia and squint eyes. Natural therapies are also used to heal eye diseases like glaucoma, premature cataract, retinal diseases, retinitis pigmentosa, retinal detachment, optic neuritis, keratoconus and diabetic retinopathy. Three cycles of Netrajyoti treatment of 12 days each later, which included many processes and brain stimulation along with internal medication for the last couple of years has got Sanjay back 80 per cent of his vision in one eye and 60 per cent in another.

Dr Padmalochan Jena’s tips to prevent childhood blindness

The room should be lit with natural intensity lights like candle light, an old filament bulb and ghee lamp light as it does not strain the eyes. CFL and LED is high intensity and strains the eyes. It is better to use these with a protective covering like lamp shades. Choosing the lights with frequencies towards yellow is better than blue.

While using desktops, one must reduce the contrast and brightness and keep the screen cool. Take breaks to blink and look at far objects for one minute. These breaks will reduce 90 per cent of the strain on the eyes from exposure to the computer screens.

Proper lighting while using gadgets is important. Avoid the use of gadgets in darkness. Take regular breaks. Some exercises, like palming, blinking and side viewing can help immensely. Children can do these exercises after having spent a lot of time on their homework or after having worked or played on computer screen

Palming

Rub your palms against each other until they are warm.

Close your eyes and place the palms gently on your eyelids.

Stay until the head has been completely absorbed by the eyes.

Repeat the exercise thrice.

Blinking

Sit comfortably with your eyes open.

Blink around 10 times very quickly.

Close your eyes and relax for 20 seconds and observe the breath.

Blink about five times.

Children can also practice front, sideways, and rotational viewing exercises. What might also help improve and retain the flexibility of the eye muscles is near and distant viewing practice, where the child can focus on the tip of the nose for about 5 seconds and then look away at a distance. Bring the focus of the eyes back to the tip of the nose and look away again. Repeat the exercise for about 10 times.

Follow these daily eye care tips:

Restrict gadget time to 15 minutes in a day. TV is better than small gadgets, which affect the retina far worse.

Exposure to nature in the morning and looking at far objects is an ideal exercise. Counting stars, moon gazing and sky gazing at night are good exercises for the eyes. The child develops a lot of eye ailments from being locked inside the room all day and exposed to radiation. They are then restricted to near vision for most of the day.

Avoid junk food. A study carried out in 2001 showed regular intake of snack foods high on linoleic acid and unsaturated fats could have a bearing on the eyesight in the future and cause age-related macular degeneration. This tip holds good for both parents and children. Consumption of vegetables like carrots with high vitamin A, almonds, greens and naturally colorful fruits make the eyes healthy.

(Based on inputs from Dr. Padmalochan Jena, Head of the Holistic Eye Research Center at Sri Sri Tattva, Panchakarma, Bangalore.)