The eye in infancy and childhood

I have been seeing an outbreak of “pink eye” - Conjunctivitis – in my office recently and I received phone calls from Nassau from patients having the same symptoms of conjunctivitis.

CONJUNCTIVITIS – Commonly called “pink eye” by patients, is a very contagious bacterial and viral infection of the conjunctiva (or white) of the eyes. It is often seen in children, in school at this time of year, that is late winter - early spring. It is primarily spread by direct contact with the secretions of infected children most commonly from hand-eye-hand contact. So, let us stop this shaking hand and holding hands and practice good hygiene with frequent and proper hand washing. In addition, I strongly recommend the use of hand sanitizers (I use a personal small one on my key chain). Parents must be vigilant in training children to wash with warm water, and lots of soap from 25-30 seconds. This is one good reason why bathrooms in airports no longer have doors - germs spread readily on door handles, especially when wet.

SYMPTOMS

(1) Redness of the white of the eyes

(2) Increased amount of tears

(3) Yellow discharge, particularly of the eyelids

(4) Itchy and painful eyes

(5) Burning, and blurring of vision

(6) Increase light sensitivity.

PREVENTION

A. Wash hands regularly and properly

B. Use your own towel. Do not share!

C. Bathe children individually, not together

D. Isolate affected children from well ones

E. Do not rub or touch affected eyes

F. Keep affected children out of school, play areas and kindergarten

G. Go to a qualified physician. DO NOT SELF TREAT

Remember small children and infants are particularly susceptible to contagious pink eye.

THE EYE IN INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD – The eye, at birth, is three quarters the size of the adult eye. The first year, after birth, infants experience the most rapid and maximal eye development up to and, including age three.

The sclera of the infant’s eye is relatively thin and translucent. The cornea tends to flatten from infancy to childhood. The pupils are small and are difficult to dilate. The newborn lens is more spherical and has greater refractive power. The fundus is less pigmented, thus the “pretty” eyes of the young child.

SIGHT – Though the newborn can see immediately after birth, the newborn does not focus right away and actually “sees” upside down under five to six months. Actually, the child’s perception matures to correct the upside-down image to right-side up.

CHLAMYDIA AND BLINDNESS – My interest in the eyes of the newborn was made passionate while I worked in Tanzania, in Africa, when I was abhorred by the number of newborns being born from Chlamydia affected mothers, with neonatal blindness. This made me particularly concerned with the high rate of Chlamydia (the most common STD in the Bahama Islands). Dr. Braithwaite, the new retired Pathologist, did detailed studies of the Bahamian chlamydia rate, and I am still very sensitized in testing young persons - especially sexually active young girls; for chlamydia.

PREVENTION

It is, therefore, mandatory that all newborns have a thorough, and careful eye examination while still in hospital; and that prophylactically the eyes of ALL newborn be treated with eye drops of Silver Nitrate AGNo3.

Since vision is tantamount to education and reading, the eyes of infants and young children must be seen as most important, and careful eye exams must be part of every and all well baby visits up to and including school age.

My eyes are particularly sensitive, yet, at age 73, I’m the only member of my family that does not wear (or need) glasses. I eat a lot of raw carrots, and I make it a point of going into bright sunlight outside of the building and “concrete jungle.” I received early advice from Dr. John Ott about the eyes and eyesight. Pink eyes are contagious. Get your children tested early.

SHALLOM

Amen’RA

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