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Importance of Children’s Eye Health

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Child looking at Dad's eyes at an eye appointment

This past summer, my husband and youngest son both underwent two major eye surgeries. My husband had a corneal transplant, and my son had surgery to correct his strabismus. Since my husband’s family has a history of eye diseases, I have had a strong focus on preventative eye health care ever since my children were born. We take our children every year for wellness checks and twice a year to the dentist, but many parents overlook the importance of also having your child’s vision checked.

Ever since learning about Kaiser Permanente health care, the one thing that I love about the insurance company is their focus on preventative care, and that everything is under one roof. When parents are bringing their children in for their well visit, they can also have their children’s vision checked all at the same location – which is ideal for busy parents like me.

Recently, I had the pleasure of talking with Doctor Shaival Shah, a pediatric ophthalmologist at Kaiser Permanente Orange County, about what parents can do to help ensure their children’s eyes stay healthy. Here are some great tips from Dr. Shah on caring for your child’s eye health:

How often should parents have their child’s eye checked?

It depends on known history. If there is a known family history of eye problems, then depending on the conditions we would want to see the child early, typically before age 4.

For a typical healthy child with no known problems, we are learning now that it’s better to examine their eyes at a series of checkpoints throughout childhood. Typically this screening is done at birth, during infancy, during the preschool years and during elementary years. Often these eye checks can come from the pediatrician, the school, or even volunteer organizations. The basic idea with eye development in children is that the sooner one finds and treats an eye problem the better the outcome.

At Kaiser Permanente, we have a robust vision screening program. We believe strongly in preventative health. All a parent has to do is make sure they go to their regular well-child appointments and their child will automatically get vision checks at the appropriate intervals.

Do vitamins impact your child’s eye health?

In SoCal, we have a lot of parents who are conscious about what they feed their children. Many most would prefer a holistic approach than a pharmaceutical approach. There is published data showing that eye vitamins can help individuals with Macular Degeneration.

It is not extra vitamins that make your eyes better. It is more of the deficiency of vitamins that cause the problems. People have grown up with carrots are good for the eyes, carrots have vitamin A, it’s not that more vitamin A is going to make your eye stronger, it’s more that a vitamin A deficiency that can cause eye problems.

I tell parents that other than a well-balanced diet, and unless you have Macular Degeneration and your doctor is recommending eye vitamins, there’s no need to take anything more. If you want to take supplements, I would recommend a regular multi-vitamin.

There is an additional indication for supplements and that is for the treatment of dry eyes. Something that is new in the landscape is Omega-3 fatty acids. There is growing evidence beginning to emerge that omega -3 fatty acids may be helpful for those suffering from chronic dry eyes. There isn’t a whole lot of evidence that guides the actual dosing. What I do in my practice is I recommend about a gram a day, and that seems to help.

The best thing about Kaiser Permanente is that we are an integrated system where physicians get to focus on patient care. It makes the communication between all parts of the health care team very easy and seems to make patients happy. Kaiser Permanente is committed to keeping families healthy and enjoying a high quality of life. Learn more about Kaiser online.

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