If your child is 10 years old, it is time to take him or her for eye screening as the trend of vision defects among school children in that age has been on the rise.
This was the message sent out to parents by public health experts, eye doctors and ophthalmic assistants who have expressed that a long-term vision is required to prevent “short sight” among children.
As many as 4,400 children, who are now studying sixth class in various Government and aided schools in Madurai district, are set to receive glasses in the first phase this week, from the Health Department, under the Chief Minister’s Kannoli Kappom Thittam.
“Correcting vision defects at an early stage is a top priority for us. Every academic year, sixth standard students are being screened and free spectacles are provided to them as per the recommendation of the team of ophthalmologists. Children at the age of 10 years are our target group because that is the time we can identify whether a child has any defect in the eyes or not,” S. Senthilkumar, Deputy Director of Health Services, Madurai district, told The Hindu on Sunday.
The important role of school teachers and parents in preventing myopia (short sight) to make the “young eyes viable” has been stressed by senior cornea expert N. Venkatesh Prajna of Aravind Eye Hospitals.
“Several studies have shown that when a society becomes more literate, it has a direct link with increase in myopia among people and more so children. As indoor activity becomes a way of life, the eyesight falls victim. It is essential to check the vision of children before they are 12 years old,” he advises parents.
The uncorrected refractive errors lead to visual impairment thereby making a child weak in studies, with poor performance, less productivity and impaired quality of life.
M. Veerasamy, national convenor, National Ophthalmic Associate Association who is an ophthalmic assistant at Karungalagudi Primary Health Centre near here, says that the correction of refractive errors with spectacles is the simplest, cheapest and most widely used method for improving vision.
“As prevalence of myopia is on the rise, school teachers have been trained on how to do vision screening. Screening kits have been provided to the teachers and once they do the initial test, doctors and ophthalmic assistants will follow it up. Palli Sirar Kannoli Kappom Thittam is a visionary scheme to prevent eye defects,” Mr. Veerasamy said.
Dr. Prajna tells parents to ensure that their children take more of green leafy vegetables, carrots, mangoes, papaya, egg, fish and milk as they are rich in Vitamin-A. During eye screening in schools, the focus should be on checking for unilateral myopia too.
The district has already received the free spectacles and it would be handed over to the students in Government and aided schools in all the blocks. Those students who had been given spectacles in the last academic year, will be checked again.
“Some children wear spectacles initially but do not use them regularly. In such cases, the chances of irreversible blindness are high,” cautions Mr.Veerasamy, who has been conducting awareness programmes on this aspect at village level.
Based on a list of students who were given spectacles, the teachers were advised to monitor them daily in the classroom.
S. Elango, State president, Indian Public Health Association, has said that myopia among school going children has become a challenge everywhere as the number of students with vision defects has increased from 2 to 15 per cent.
“Primary eye care is an important component in public health. The Health Department and School Education Department should work in tandem. My appeal is to make eye screening mandatory in all private and Government schools for students of primary classes,” he suggested.
As children wearing spectacles have become a common sight, the eye care experts say that excessive TV watching, playing computer games for long hours and junk food must be avoided.