Updated: Mar 11
Starting 2023, IBU and Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara joined hands to build a safe, healthy, happy parent community. Through a series of lectures, workshops, online sessions, Thomson Hospitals offer parents tips and guidance in raising healthy children.
The Eye Health Session
A child’s learning, motor ability and cognitive function are all influenced by visual development as 80% of what a child learns is through how well they can see the world. Healthy visual development is essential for your kids to reach their developmental milestones in a timely manner, which can later influence their academic performance, social skills and sporting abilities.
In this session, we learn about how our children see the world, what warning signs to look for, why vision assessment at a young age is important, and finally, useful and simple tips for taking good care of their eyes.
Thank you Isabelle, for sharing your first hand experience attending this talk!
I have to confess: my eldest boy is five going on six this year, and I’d never brought him for an eye assessment before. It actually never really occurred to me that it was necessary. Of course, I brought him to our paediatrician for his annual vaccinations and general wellness check ups, as well as the dentist for an annual check up as well.
But an eye check? Nope. So, I’m so glad I attended the session because it was a literal eye-opener for us. THKD’s chief optometrist, Yong Ai Chee, gave us a treasure trove of information about the importance of early eye assessments, symptoms of vision problems to look out for, as well as what to do about issues like myopia or lazy eye.
Kiddocare was also there, with their fantastic babysitters, so that those who brought children could listen to the talk with full attention. It was awesome knowing that our kids were busy having fun at the back of the hall - not one came to look for their mummy even once. 😂
Importance of EARLY Vision Screening
In 1983, the mean onset of myopia (short-sightedness) was 11 years old. In the year 2000, it was eight years old. What about today? With screen time and digital devices an inescapable part of our growing children’s world, it’s little wonder that optometrists are seeing more and more cases of myopia happening earlier and earlier, and growing at an alarming rate.
So what happens if a CHILD has myopia but no steps are taken to address the issue?
Findings from several studies documenting the negative impact of untreated vision problems on children point to:
Limited academic achievement
Risk to mental health
Reduced quality of life
Imagine the child being unable to read the sentences on the class blackboard? Or being unable to participate fully in social games or sports because they keep tripping or stumbling as they’re not confident in their footing. Imagine the child viewing the school canteen or the school library as a colourful blur, unable to tell where their friends are sitting?
Imagine your child thinking that is how the world is supposed to look like!
Ms. Yong emphasized early screenings as early intervention results in the ability to correct the issue as fully as possible. Past the age of seven or so, there was a noticeable difference in the body’s ability to repair vision problems, compared to if treatment had been introduced during the early childhood years.
Vision Red Flags (Symptoms to look out for)
Have I worried you enough yet? Okay, let’s move on to warning signs that may indicate a vision problem for your child:
Frequent eye-rubbing (except when they’re tired, which is normal)
Having excessively watery eyes
Sitting very close to the TV/holding objects very close to their face
Being clumsy and having poor hand-eye coordination
Complaining about blurred or double vision, or having unexplained headaches
Avoiding reading, writing, or drawing
Screwing their eyes up or closing one eye when they read or watch TV
Closing one eye when they go out into bright sunshine
If you feel like one or more of the above resonates with you, then do schedule a comprehensive eye exam to see if there’s indeed something to worry about.
When to do Eye Screenings?
So now you feel like you NEED to get your child’s eyes checked but they seem way too young. How are they going to get their vision tested when they can’t even talk properly yet, let alone read lines of the alphabet as they get smaller and smaller on the screen?
Ms Yong reassured us that it’s extremely possible to have an eye assessment done at any age - right from the newborn stage onwards! For an optometrist trained in handling children’s vision assessments, there are numerous ways to check their eyesight without the kids even realising it. She demonstrated a simple one for babies by using two paddles - one in dull grey, and one with stripes. By observing where a child's gaze moves ( a child with normal vision automatically looks at the paddle with high contrast), the expert gauges the child.
Screen Time - Moderation is Key
Ms Yong shared the learnings from the CHILD birth cohort study (2019) that increased screen time was associated with worse inattention problems in preschoolers. The study compared children with less than 30-mins daily screen time with those who were watching screens for over two hours daily. Signs of an inattention problem include a short attention span, hyperactivity, and being easily distracted.
And when it comes to vision problems, she said research from Ireland has shown that children using screens for over three hours daily were almost four times as likely to have myopia than those spending less than an hour daily on screens.
In fact, the biggest impact occurred during the younger ages: six to seven year olds who were heavy screen users were FIVE times more likely to have myopia than light users.
Good Eye Health Practices
Regardless of whether your child has a family history of eye sight problems or not, Ms Yong said it is vital to practice basic good habits for eye care. They include:
Early eye testing
Vision assessment at any age is possible, especially if there are worrying symptoms
Eating a ‘rainbow’
It’s essential for children to get different essential vitamins and minerals from a variety of food as their bodies grow and develop
Ms Yong’s pro-tip: Ensure you purchase one with a UV400 rating for true protection. Why? Because tinted sunglasses without UV protection cause the pupils to dilate further, thereby resulting in greater UV exposure.
Limit screen time
Whenever possible, keep screen time to recommended limits.
If unavoidable, then take frequent breaks to rest their eyes. Ask them to walk around, as well as look at something far away so their eye muscles have a chance to readjust and relax from focusing at short-range.
Try to get two hours of outdoor time daily for exercise and recreation.
I hope these tips above were as incredibly helpful for you as they were for me! In fact, I signed my son up for THKD’s comprehensive eye assessment after the talk, because he does often rub his eyes and sometimes complains about the sun being too bright (I always thought the eye rubbing was from his allergies!!)
Pssst, IBU members get 10% off THKD’s eye health screenings for both adults and children, among other offers specially for us. To make an appointment, call THKD’s Optometry Eye Health Centre at 03-6287 1363/018 211 1366.
About Ms. Yong
Yong Ai Chee, Chief Optometrist, Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara
MPH Global Health (Queen's University Belfast) UK, BSc Optometry (UKM) Malaysia
Ai Chee is a public health optometrist with more than 10 years of working experience in clinical optometry. She advocates for preventive eye health and is especially passionate about promoting children’s healthy vision.
Other Health Chats
Thomson Hospital plans a series of workshops and other sessions with their experts. Here is a brief description of some of the things coming up. Do check our calendar for the dates and times as they get scheduled, so you dont miss something important for your child
April 1st: First Aid and CPR for babies and for children- a paid, certified course. Please click here to register. IBU members, please remember to add your code when buying the tickets for the special rate.
Other sessions in the pipeline:
Common cold and vaccinations
Paediatrics & child development disorders (ADHD, ADD, etc)
Dietetics & Nutrition
and so many others. If you have a suggestion, please leave a comment below
About Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara
Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara (THKD) is a multidisciplinary tertiary hospital equipped with 308 beds, 34 critical care beds and 10 operating theatres. It has over 120 consultant specialists in more than 50 specialties and subspecialties.
Thomson Hospital also houses clinics such as the first headache clinic in Malaysia, a gastric and reflux clinic, severe asthma clinic, Eye Health department, and Oncology and Nuclear Medicine center within their walls.
Its 24-hour accident and emergency department is standing by to serve you night and day.
As an award-winning hospital, Thomson Hospital has international patient services to meet the needs of a wide range of customers.