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Children’s headaches rarely linked to vision problems —Researchers

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MY head hurts.” A mother hearing those words from her child who was busy reading, would be alarmed, especially if it is recurrent. Such complaints, especially while doing homework, many parents often assume are commonly caused by a need for glasses or improper glasses. But a new study revealed that was actually not the case.

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Researchers found in most cases, the children’s headaches resolved over a period of time regardless of whether the child got a new prescription for glasses or not. And those who did get new glasses were no more likely to have their headaches get better.

Now, researchers in a study presented at the 116th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, provided the first clear evidence that vision or eye problems are rarely the cause of recurring headaches in children. They came to this conclusion by comparing the results of the clinic’s examination of the children with headaches to the records of their previous eye examinations and other relevant medical care.

The researchers reviewed the medical records of 158 children under age 18 who were seen at the ophthalmology clinic of Albany Medical Centre in New York State for frequent headaches from between 2002 and 2011. All the children received complete eye examinations by the clinic’s ophthalmologists.

The researchers found that eye health and vision test results remained unchanged from earlier examinations for 75 per cent of the children. Also, children who already had eyeglasses were not found to need new prescriptions at the time they were seen at the clinic for headaches.

Although about 14 per cent of the children reported that their headaches occurred while doing visual tasks like homework and about nine per cent reported visual symptoms associated with their headaches, the need for vision correction did not appear to be the primary cause or a significant factor in any of these cases.

Follow up reports from parents showed that headaches improved in 76.4 per cent of all study subjects, including those who did and those who did not receive new vision correction prescriptions. Children who received new prescriptions were not more likely than others to have their headaches improve.

About 30 per cent of the children in the study had eye conditions that went beyond the need for vision correction, including strabismus (misaligned eyes) amblyopia (“lazy eye”) or other rarer, more serious conditions. Seventeen per cent had a family history of migraine. Because this was a retrospective study, the researchers were unable to connect these factors with headache causes.

Typically, when a child complains of a headache to a paediatrician and after treatment, it still persisted, it may be attributed to eye fatigue and or eye strain because the child is forcing the eye to see, said Dr Tunji Oluleye, a consultant ophthalmologist, University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Oyo State.

According to Dr Oluleye: “Eye strain is what causes the headache and if it is not recognised early and properly attended to, later on, it might be difficult to correct the problem because the brain would have gotten used to that poor vision.”

Conversely, he stated that where the frame of the glasses is tight, this could also create tension headaches. In addition, frames that are tilted can alter the effective lens prescription and result in eye strain and possible mild headaches.

Why do preschool children sometimes develop headache while doing their homework? According to Dr Oluleye, “children when they are in preschool or just entering school, have long sightedness. So in an effort to see what is near, their eyes would require making some adjustments. That effort, if the eye has some error, could aggravate the headache.”

“This is one of the reasons why people must have yearly eye checkups. Even if there is no complain, it is still important that they check their eyes.”

Other causes of headache related to the eye include difficulty converging both eyes simultaneously to focus on reading, any misalignment of the eyes (strabismus) and any need for glasses (for example, nearsighted (myopic), farsighted (hyperopic), or astigmatism.

Headaches caused by difficulty converging both eyes simultaneously to focus on reading or focusing one eye at a time on reading, thereby requiring reading glasses usually do not occur until school age and often not until third or fourth grade when the reading print becomes smaller and it takes a longer time to finish assignments.

But eyestrain and vision problems are not common causes of headaches. A headache is a symptom of a problem, not a disease in its own right.

Most commonly, Professor Adegoke Falade, a consultant paediatrician, University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Oyo State, stated that in children, the most frequent causes of headache include infections such as colds, flu, and ear and sinus infections.

He added that other more serious infections that could cause headache to include meningitis or inflamed brain. These are usually accompanied by fever and neck stiffness. Other causes are head injury, emotional factors, certain foods and beverages, problems in the brain such as tumours or abscess.

The way a child exhibits a headache may be related to many factors, such as genetics, hormones, stress, diet, medications, and dehydration. Recurrent headaches of any type can cause school problems, behavioural problems, and/or depression.

However, specific treatment for headaches will be determined by the child’s age, overall health, and medical history; extent of the headaches, type of headaches and the child’s tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies.

Some headaches may require immediate medical attention including hospitalisation for observation, diagnostic testing, or even surgery. Treatment is individualised depending on the extent of the underlying condition that is causing the child’s headache.

The extent of the child’s recovery is individualised depending on the type of headache and other medical problems that may be present.


The post Children’s headaches rarely linked to vision problems —Researchers appeared first on Tribune Online.

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