Protection for 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. It is important that we take corrective measures for eye health.

Common eye disorders in kids and teens:

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.

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 styes on their eyelid at one time and can happen in both eyes. It is 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 and teens 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, and constantly blinking the eyes are some of the symptoms of dry eyes. Your kid’s pediatrician might prescribe one of the kids eyesight products which can help with dry eyes.

Symptoms to be taken seriously:

  • 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 & vitamins for children’s eye:

Parents often look for eye health food. Vitamins play a very important role in developing and promoting children’s eye health. Though a large number of kids eyesight products are available in the market, the best way to provide the essential vitamins for children’s eyes is by giving them nutritious food which will support their eye health in the years to come. However, if your child suffers from any of the eye concerns mentioned above, check with your doctor if any additional supplements or kids eyesight products like eye drops or capsules are required. As a regular practice, include these nutrients in the diet of the child as a source for eye health food.

Vitamin A: Vitamin A is one of the most important vitamins for children’s eyes as it 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. (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) and support children’s eye health significantly. 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: Vitamin C is also an important eye vitamin for kids and teens. It is a powerful antioxidant that protects eyes against damaging free radicals. It produces collagen which is important for children’s eye health. Connective tissues in eyes are maintained by collagen. It holds them together and protects them. 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 another significant vitamins for children’s eyes as 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?

 This list summarises the key nutrients for eye health which must be included in everyday diet of kids and teens.