During the Sunday school class in a Pentecostal church two weeks ago, Tomiwa, 11, was called upon by the coordinator of that session to read a verse in the Bible. Having been relaxed and certainly not expecting to be called, more so that there were many other Bible scholars around, she began to scramble for her eyeglasses.
Until her elder sister, who sat close to her, helped her to locate the eyeglasses, tucked somewhere in her bag, Tomiwa struggled to read the Bible passage, slowly, because she had to bring the Bible very close to her eyes, about five inches away. But when her sister located the eyeglasses and handed it over to her, she heaved a sigh of relief and began reading the passage with ease. And on a closer look, the thickness of the lenses would make it clear to anyone who bothered to look that it was beyond fashion.
In the past, like decades ago, the likes of Tomiwa had nothing to do with eyeglasses; it wasn’t for children, and if they were to wear any, they were mostly for fashion.
Back then, the elderly wear glasses more. In fact, wearing a pair of glasses was like a symbol of old age.
But these days, all age groups seem to wear eyeglasses as a corrective device, regardless of gender and age. And, like Tomiwa, many children now wear eyeglasses. But why is this? Experts gave some reasons.
Birth influence: A consultant endocrinologist, Dr. Michael Olamoyegun, said apart from the fact that vision impairment could be hereditary, certain avoidable activities could be responsible for why more children now wear eyeglasses. He explained that there are certain drugs women should not take during pregnancy. If they take such drugs, he said they could cause vision impairment in the baby they are carrying. He added that in some cases, the effect of such drugs could go beyond impairment to cause outright blindness. He said, “That is why we always counsel that pregnant women should not take drugs that have not been prescribed by doctors, because some drugs could have adverse effect on the baby. The drug may not even be harmful to the woman, but to the child.”
Untreated STD as of delivery time: It has been said that sexually transmitted diseases have enormous negative effects including infertility, kidney problem, heart-related problems, itching and irritation of the genitals, but one other thing STDs could do is that if a pregnant woman has any, it could affect the baby she is carrying. Olamoyegun said, “When a pregnant woman has gonorrhea, we advise strongly that she gets it treated before her delivery date. This is because at the time of delivery, if the infection is still there and she’s delivered of the baby through the normal birth canal, the baby, in the course of passage, could have his or her eyes affected, and that could later manifest in vision impairment. Usually, if the infection has not been completely treated as of the time of delivery, the woman could be delivered of her baby through Caeserean Section, just for the sake of the baby. So, that is another way children could contract such impairment.”
Meanwhile, findings showed that other STIs are risky to the baby, especially during childbirth because STIs are highly contagious. Genital herpes, which often manifest in sores around the vagina, is very contagious and it could affect the baby’s eyes, while chlamydia, another STI, is said to have similar effect on the eyes of a baby if the mother had the infection at birth. Also, syphilis has been found to predispose children to vision impairment if their mother had it at their birth.
Perhaps this explains why parents are advised to make sure their children’s eyes are examined after birth.
Use of non-prescribed drugs: According to the endocrinologist, one of the things that impair children’s vision is the use of certain drugs at a tender age. He said drugs like chloroquine should not be taken by children, say below the age of 10, unless prescribed by a doctor. “There have been instances of vision impairment in children who took chloroquine at a tender age without prescription, and there are some other drugs like that, which could affect their vision. That is why people are advised not to take drugs, unless prescribed by a doctor.”
Increased awareness: Meanwhile, an optometrist, Dr. Chigozie Onyesonwu, pointed out that increased usage of eyeglasses among children is also partly due to the fact that, with the increased awareness among parents, who now take their children for check up at an early age, some children now wear glasses in their early years to correct any defect that might arise as they grow older. He said, “In the past, it was like a taboo to see young children wear corrective devices, and back then even if the child’s complaint about his or her vision was genuine, parents would dismiss it thinking it was aimed at being fashionable, but now parents have found out that it’s for the good of the child to take that step early.
Exposure to radioactive screens: Children are delighted by computers, phones and television and that is quite understandable. But findings have shown that excessive exposure to the screens of these devices could impair their vision over time. Onyesonwu said, “The radiation, especially the blue ray, coming from the screens of those devices alters many things in the eyes of children and so parents are advised to limit their children’s exposure to them. Apart from few cases that are age dependent, eye problem doesn’t know gender or age, and so, parents should take note.” He stressed that adults should also limit their exposure to those screens. He added, “For people who use computer a lot, they should try and take break off the screen intermittently, especially when they are on that marathon usage or exposure. If the light is disturbing you so much, you have to use corrective lens on the system, which would shield the eyes from the blue light. We call them anti-reflective lenses. You don’t necessarily need to have eye problem before you use them, you just need to have them.”
In addition to this, WebMD, an online publisher of news and information pertaining to human health and well-being, advised people to follow the 20/20/20 rule, which says look at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds every 20 minutes. It adds that people should place their screen about 25 inches away and slightly below the eye level.
Meanwhile, regardless of whether people have impaired vision or not, Onyesonwu advised that people should visit their eye specialists from time to time, saying that is one way they could help their eyes.
On how often people should visit the specialist, he said at least once a year and that people from the age of 40 should see their eye doctor more than once a year, especially those whose families have a history of eye problem, like glaucoma. “Most of the time, eye problem is hereditary and for people who have it in their family, once they are 40, they need to see their doctor regularly, even if it’s every six months, and this is also because early detection is key in preserving the eyes,” he added.
Interestingly, there are things people could do to have healthy eyes. According to WebMD, these include eating well, especially food that are rich in Vitamin A, as such have been found to aid good vision. Food items recommended include citrus fruits, carrot, orange, vegetables, dark leafy greens, whole grains and food rich in zinc, like beans, peanuts and poultry products, which have been found to help the eyes resist light damage. Onyesonwu said people could also consider supplements that could give the vitamins that the eyes need.
While wearing sunglasses, sometimes, has a fashion appeal, people who use them may be doing themselves some good, as they have been found to protect the eyes and help to guard against eye problems like cataracts, cornea burns and cancer of the eyelid. WebMD also advised that people whose eyes are exposed to debris or hazardous chemicals, like welders and those working in quarries or construction sites, should always use protective eyewear.
People are equally advised not to ignore eye problems, and that they should see a doctor if they notice pain, secretions, swelling, sensitivity to light or blurred vision.
Also, for people who use eyeglasses, they are advised to use only approved cleaners and they should never wear the eyeglasses to bed.
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