Jul 4, 2014 — For very young children, eye trauma can permanently influence proper sight development. Dr. Craig Chaya from the Moran Eye Center warns that eye trauma in children needs to be taken seriously, especially while at play. He lists some scenarios to avoid and some common activities where wearing eye protection is a must.

Interview

Interviewer: I know you've heard it before, but eye protection for kids is absolutely crucial. We're going to find out more about that next, on The Scope.

Announcer: Medical news and research from University Utah physicians and specialists you can use, for a happier and healthier life. You're listening to The Scope.

Interviewer: It seems like some warnings you hear all the time. For example, if you go participate in athletic sports or do anything like that, that you should wear eye protection. For children, it's really, really, really important. To help illustrate that point, we're with Dr. Craig Chaya from the Moran Eye Center. You were just telling me a little bit earlier that the number one threat to a child's eyes is trauma. Can you expand upon that, please?

Dr. Craig Chaya: Yeah, you know, a child's eye is growing from the time they're born. And really, during those formative years, the first five to six years, a lot of things can happen with a child's eye. Both in terms of quality of vision, but trauma can be something that's so preventable for a growing child. I think it's important to realize that for a child, often, traumatic events, whether they be due to hobbies or sports, can be more devastating for children.

Interviewer: Because of the growing nature of the eye, sure.

Dr. Craig Chaya: The growing nature of the vision, or growing nature of the eye, as well as their need to be able see images clearly. Kids have this way of shutting down the eye. If the vision is not good out of one eye, they'll just shut it down. It's important to maintain clarity of vision for a growing child's eye, in order to develop those connections between the eye and the brain.

Interviewer: Wow, really? Gotcha, because that's still growing. So it sounds like you're talking about, maybe, six and under at this point.

Dr. Craig Chaya: Yes.

Interviewer: Is eye protection really that much of an issue there? Or are there some other things that you might want to watch out at that age bracket? It sounds like eye protection might be as they get older and start getting into some of those hobbies.

Dr. Craig Chaya: Sure, I would say, as children, it's important, as parents are deciding what types of toys they're playing with. We've seen a lot of accidents happen with children playing with toys that were probably would be inappropriate for younger kids. I think that's important from a parental standpoint, it's important to know what kinds of toys your children are playing with.

Interviewer: So don't just watch for those choking hazards, watch for those eye hazards.

Dr. Craig Chaya: Yeah, there are some that are projectile hazards. Those things could potentially involve children's' eyes.

Interviewer: So a Nerf gun, would that be enough force to damage a child's eye that's six or under?

Dr. Craig Chaya: I've seen that the Nerf darts have changed, some of them are getting smaller.

Interviewer: Sure.

Dr. Craig Chaya: If you hit it just right, there could be damage done to a child's eye. Another one would be airsoft guns. It may not be the child, but it may be big brother, or big sister playing with those. If those children are around those environments that could really put them at risk.

Interviewer: Those six and unders, be really, really, careful.

Dr. Craig Chaya: Yes.

Interviewer: What about six and older?

Dr. Craig Chaya: Six and older. Kids six and older are often involved in sports activities, involved in different hobbies. One of the common stories we often hear after trauma with children is that 'oh, it happened when my glasses were off. I took my safety glasses off just for a moment and that's when it happened.' That's a common thread that we often hear a lot. We just want to encourage children out there, if you're involved in sports, or involved in hobbies where there's a potential for eye trauma; those glasses should stay on from the moment you engage, until the time you finish the sport.

Interviewer: Wow, that's fascinating. What are some of the sports that are the big offenders?

Dr. Craig Chaya: Anything, I would say, that involves high-velocity projectiles, like baseball is a common one, racquetball, tennis; other ones would include hobbies like airsoft guns. The airsoft pellet is just the perfect size to do an amazing amount of damage. Even though it may not penetrate the eye, the precise nature of those airsoft pellets can do considerable intraocular damage.

Interviewer: So let's say the worst happens. Does the trauma have to hit the eye directly, or could it be off to the side?

Dr. Craig Chaya: No, it can be off to the side, or it can even be through the eyelid. The child may be able to close their eye just in time before the projectile hits. That nature, the velocity, the energy that's transmitted by those types of injury can go through the eye, all the way through the back.

Interviewer: So at that point, what should a parent do?

Dr. Craig Chaya: If they were to have a child that underwent some trauma, I think it's important for them to seek medical attention. Initially, it may appear to be a very benign injury, but it's important for those children to get a full, complete examination to make sure that there's no injuries both in the front aspect of the eye as well as internal aspects of the eye.

Interviewer: Is that an emergency room situation? Or make an appointment with your eye doctor?

Dr. Craig Chaya: If there's vision loss, I think that would be an emergency. If there isn't any vision loss, but mainly eye pain, I think that may be able to be scheduled as outpatient, but, if the patient is in a considerable amount of pain, I would consider that an emergency as well.

Interviewer: You can actually then still intervene at that point and prevent further damage?

Dr. Craig Chaya: Well, I think it's important to know what the extent of the damage is; I think you need diagnostic information first. See what's going on, and then be able make a decision. Counsel patients on 'is this something that's going to go away with time? Are we going to allow the child to heal, or do we actually need to do something and intervene to prevent further damage?'

Interviewer: On a scale from 1 to 10 of taking it seriously, where would you rank eye trauma?

Dr. Craig Chaya: 10. Serious.

Interviewer: Any final thoughts?

Dr. Craig Chaya: Other causes for patients, cataracts are rare in children; trauma is probably one of the major causes for cataracts in children. There are other things that should be mentioned as well, including different metabolic syndromes, different genetic syndromes, as well, and different infections that children can sometimes in acquire while they're in the womb.

Announcer: We're your daily dose of science, conversation, medicine. This is The Scope. University of Utah Health Sciences radio.


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